In the modern football world, the term “football manager” has become so synonymous with phrases like “transfer kitty” and “transfer funds” that I am starting to believe that the job should be re-titled “football dealer”. Gone are the days when the main focus of a new manager, stepping into a new job with a new club, was to assess his playing staff and determine what he could achieve with them.
Today, upon arrival, most managers seem to worry more about how much they can spend bringing people in, sometimes ignoring what is already at their disposal. This problem is perhaps mainly a Premier League one as most teams in country’s like Spain, Italy or Germany operate with a “coach” and “director of football”, with the latter mainly charged with dealing with transfers. However, even in those countries, we still see examples of managers bemoaning a lack of transfer funds and sometimes using it as a shield against their own failures.
My main problem with this over-reliance on money is the way it has distorted the way most casual football fans look at their clubs and their clubs achievements. Too often today, fans are willing to defend managers because they believe money wasn’t available for the manager to “build his own team” or “sign the kind of players” he wanted. Whilst it can never be denied that in modern football, money has taken on a greater importance and can be directly linked to the successes of certain teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and even Barcelona to some extent (people seem to overlook the money they invest in their youth infrastructure which is how money should be invested in football), the art of coaching and extracting great performances from perceived “lesser” players is something that has proved time again to be an ability most great coaches possess.
When I look at a manager such as David Moyes, who has performed miracles at Everton without ever spending more than £10 to £15million net a season, I wonder why most managers today in the English premier league choose to use money as a crutch rather than a added bonus. Moyes has successfully lifted Everton from a mid-table team who fell as low as almost being relegated to a comfortable top 8 team that even broken into the top four a couple of seasons ago, displacing my own club Liverpool. Moyes’ example is not the only one that can be seen in the Premiership. Another manager, who perhaps operates under greater pressure as he is expected to not only deliver good performances but trophies, has made it his obsession to not use transfer funds as a crutch, but rather make use of his ability to nurture and develop young talent, showing that football clubs can be run the way they are meant to be.
The job Arsene Wenger has done at Arsenal is simply remarkable when we consider what those around him have spent and how little, again in terms of net spend, he has. Sure, there have been the odd extravagant outlays such as the £16.5million on José Reyes, but Wenger has mainly stuck to his principles of player development which, despite Arsenal’s five years without a trophy, has kept the club in a sound financial situation which the fans-who right now bemoan his unwillingness to spend the money he apparently has at his disposal-will eventually thank him for.
Wenger stands at the other end of the spectrum from a manager like Harry Redknapp who, despite the good job he has done at Tottenham so far, relies on “transfer funds” to paper over certain deficiencies in his managerial arsenal. In my opinion Harry Redknapp’s decision to make use of the funds provided to him by Alexandre Gaydamak, despite the obvious problems at Portsmouth-which he must have known been so close to Peter Storrie-makes him directly responsible for Portsmouth state today, along with Storrie. I have read pieces in the media exonerating Redknapp of any blame as “if he is given the funds, why wouldn’t he spend it?”. Perhaps because, as a football manager, his main duty is to act in the best interest of the football club. When faced with a choice between acting in the interest of the long term financial stability of Portsmouth football club or trying to achieve his own ambitions, Redknapp chose the later and the results are there for all to see today.
Football management is a difficult job and it really shouldn’t be any other way. The unique ability to manage egos, coerce performances from millionaires and handle fans and media alike demands a special kind of person and only those special kind of people should be allowed to take the jobs. If David Moyes, Arsene Wenger, Ian Holloway and Chris Hughton can achieve success (based on the individual goals of each club they are managing) without going transfer mad, why can’t other managers go “old school” and adhere to their job titles and actually manage the footballers at their club? Perhaps the answer is very simple: why make a well paying, public job hard when you can make it easier by throwing money at it?