Thursday 22 March 2018

John Giles: Modern managers are expected to perform miracles on demand for the faceless people running clubs

West Ham manager Slaven Bilic Photo: Reuters / Matthew Childs
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic Photo: Reuters / Matthew Childs
Mourinho poses with his 2014/15 Premier League winners' medal. Getty
John Giles

John Giles

Class is not a requirement to be a great football manager but it certainly lifts the spirits when I see someone in the game showing grace under pressure.

Slaven Bilic is the man I have in mind and he is dealing with second season syndrome in a wonderfully calm, honest and measured way.

It takes all sorts in the management game and I would never say that it is a prerequisite of the job that a coach has to be a decent human being.

But it helps when the man under the cosh and sitting in front of a microphone speaks common sense and doesn’t bluff.

In trying to explain West Ham’s dodgy start to the season, Bilic cut to the chase and admitted that his problems were down to himself and his staff to solve and that everyone at the club had reason to be critical of his team.


He did not hammer his players as Jose Mourinho has been doing at Old Trafford and he didn’t blame referees either.

Mourinho did just that at Chelsea this time last year, lost the dressing room, the club supporters and then his job.

Some might point out that when it comes to success, Mourinho is light years ahead of Bilic and sure, there is something in that.

But Mourinho’s success came when players believed in him and bought into his method.

He now seems intent on taking the same player critical road at Old Trafford but I’ve never seen a manager win medals by publicly criticising his players. Never.

It is not an easy thing for a manager to admit that he is failing and still win people over. Bilic is doing that and I feel that Hammers fans will back him.

What I’m less sure about is the club owners who are already engaged in crisis meetings and have shelved talks on a new deal until the New Year.

I see there’s been a crisis meeting behind the scenes among the Chelsea hierarchy to discuss Antonio Conte’s start to the season.

I’d love to know what they talk about at these meetings.

Lourdes maybe, or Fatima because from what I can see, these faceless people in football clubs want to see miracles on demand.

Conte has had, by most observers’ standards, a decent start to his time with Chelsea, a club in disarray not so long ago with a squad which downed tools for a considerable stretch last season.

He is rebuilding and will need time, the same as every other new boss in the Premier League. The only item on the agenda at meetings should be how the manager can be helped in his job. Anything else undermines and cannot be helpful.

Bilic has done us all a service by giving a glimpse of what it is like to come back after a really good season, do the preparatory hard grind in July and reach the starting line full of optimism only to see form and confidence disappear.

Bilic has no idea why that should be and I’ll bet he is mesmerised by the fact that after all his preparation for this season, nothing seems to be right.

He cannot allow that to be the case for long because he has to sort it out and it is always fascinating to see this process at work. It is certainly unusual to see a manager give such an honest assessment.

This is a singular season in the Premier League management game with so many big names appointed to top clubs and all of them trying to survive from a standing start. Of them all, Pep Guardiola looks the most sure-footed and Jurgen Klopp a close second.

And in Ireland, we have our own little management saga with Martin O’Neill which has dragged on longer than anyone believed possible. What his situation underlines is that every single manager in the game has his own way and that there is no right method or wrong method.

From where I’m sitting, he should have signed long before now but in his shoes, that might seem like the most ridiculous piece of advice imaginable.

Herald Sport

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