Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Brian and Mark E

Autodidactic management. A really good post over at K-Punk comparing Mark E Smith to The Almighty Brian.

There's no better example of the way in which success in football depends on management than Clough and Taylor. Clough and Taylor - who, remember, took a backwater Second Division club, and made them into League champions, not once but twice, with players, for the most part, that no-one else wanted or could do anything with. No accidents, no luck, this was real sorcery, not hocus pocus.

No player was a greater testament to their approach than John McGovern - who makes a brief, sad appearance in The Damned United, the time and the place not right for him. McGovern seemed destined to be a middling journeyman professional, but with Clough and Taylor's help he cheated that destiny and ended up winning two league championships (one with Derby, one with Forest), and two European cups. No accidents, no luck.

Being a good manager is about being an engineer of collectivity; not about assembling the best players but about getting the best out of the ones you've got. There's nothing supernatural about esprit de corps, although any team that it has it will seem to have (at least one) extra player. Compare Smith's remarks on the England team again:

"The way the England team is now is ridiculous. A team of superstars is like a supergroup. It's like picking the best guitarist in Britain, the best drummer and the best singer, and expecting them to produce something that isn't prog-rock mush. It doesn't work: this England team will never work at the highest level. I know that. See, Sir Alf Ramsey - people never liked him for it, but he'd always have the full backs from the second division. He took players and moulded them, like I do with musicians. Gordon Banks, the goalkeeper, was from Stoke City, who were bottom of the first division."

*Almost pathetic gratitude to Will for pointing me to this.*

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