“I don’t think you do it because you’ve been a decent player. That’s a mistake a lot of footballers have made. You get your [coaching] badges first but it doesn’t mean that you will be able to manage.”
– Steven Gerrard, The Sun, 14/11/12
By definition, the manager is the person in charge – an authoritative symbol of power and control.
However, in the world of football, the man in the dugout is all too often reduced to an example of helpless deflation, with little-to-no say in what transpires on and off the pitch.
When a managerial run is successful, reputations can be solidified and elevated into legendary status. The prosperous Liverpool career of Bill Shankly, the accomplishments of Brian Clough at Derby County and the rise of Chelsea under José Mourinho are notable success stories of football management, and West Brom’s Steve Clarke is currently enjoying a favourable stint in the Premier League’s limelight.
When a manager is substandard, however, it can hinder a career for years. In fact, the unwanted tagline of being a poor manager is almost inescapable, and will effectively ruin a hard-earned reputation. Just ask former England boss Sven-Goran Eriksson, who was recently refused a job by League One strugglers Hartlepool United, or Steve McClaren, who had to flee to the Netherlands in order to escape his shortcomings.
In an example of how far a poor reputation can reach, a fan-made ‘Kean Out’ sign (referring to the disastrous Blackburn reign of Steve Kean) was spotted at a WWE professional wrestling event in Boston, Massachusetts – 3,150 miles away from Ewood Park.
At present, the spotlight is brightly shining on Mark Hughes, boss of the severely under-achieving Queens Park Rangers. Hughes, a former PFA Player of the Year and standout for an emerging mid-1990’s Manchester United, is (or was, at least) a highly respected figure in the football community. Successful stints at the helm of Blackburn (Hughes introduced such stars as Roque Santa Cruz and Christopher Samba to the Rovers) and the Welsh national team (that includes a shock 2-1 victory over Italy in 2002) strengthened Hughes’ professional standing.
While such career highlights should be remembered when considering the managerial ability of Hughes, his poor run at Loftus Road seems to be the only aspect of his career that is currently being acknowledged by fans and journalists alike. Ironically, in a display of support that has become a rarity in this sport, Rangers’ chairman Tony Hernandes has been one of the few vocal advocates of Hughes’ plight.