Where is the Task, Team, Individual mnemonic in the Premiership

It is the end of the English Football season where Welsh clubs have made news moving up and down from the Premiership; the first use of language where things blur. We have seen the European Champions League Final where talk of individuals at first eclipsed the teams, in the aftermath the inquests and inquisitions: Real Madrid – are they really legendary? Liverpool stand together to cover individual errors and misfortunes.

The usual clear out of managers has started with the inevitable changes in players to come. Now we see the buying of success as the main approach as all the pundits, any number of failed managers among them, saying ‘He needs to buy players’. Where has the career progression gone? The development and nurturing of talent?

Many of the pundits have forgotten more about football tactics and the intricacies of the skills in the game than the majority of us will ever know.

Now comes the but.

But their managerial skills and psychology leave something to be desired. There are clear exceptions and these stand head and shoulders above so many of us. This is why it is surprising to hear, see and feel the manner Jose Mourinho has started to separate himself from the team performances and the manner he has said things about the collective and the individual.

As five managers, or head coaches, leave Premier League teams, the thanks are given to this tremendous group of players, I could not ask them to have given more. It is not their fault we have failed.

Then who’s fault is it? Allardyce is an ego tripper who, it seems, is even claiming a win David Unsworth oversaw as caretaker manager. He read and learned; but was never Arnse Wenger when it comes to innovation and being able to do the necessary thinking not to become formulaic; a criticism levelled against Wenger’s Arsenal in recent years. And so Everton brought him ‘to do a job’, failed to negotiate with the ego and now have to pay off a man who has shown his greed wins out over the joys of the game (remember why he was asked to leave the England job? Taking a massive ‘bung’ when already earning well and supposedly offering leadership across the sport in England). He needs to go and stand on the side-lines of a few Sunday morning games.

Next, David Moyes, a gentleman who has studied the game and made a difference when moving from player to coach to manager as he brought fresh thinking on how to improve individual and team performances. But has his later performances not shown him to also be formulaic and easy to predict? His excuses, fore they do not truly stand as reasons given the manner he built his Everton team, not given enough money to spend on new players. Manchester, Spain, Sunderland and now just finishing East London. He is done, neither a manager nor a coach able to offer further fresh thinking.

Others who left after very short tenure include Paul Lambert, Stoke, a quality player and an emotional guy who quickly must become wearisome in the dressing room and on the training ground. Carlos Carvalhal – a raconteur of the first order; may even have managed to supersede Eric Cantona’s Seagulls quote with some of his words. Again, the initial impetus and then? Then what?

We are seeing management issues throughout these businesses, fore they are businesses. The Everton shuffling is clearly an exemplar of this as people move between positions but no one appears to be taking responsibility for the decisions and the onus has remained on the poorly appointed Allardyce who laughs all the way to the bank knowing he will not have to take part in another possible sting operation to keep him in chewing gum through to 2019.

In the cases of Allardyce, Moyes and Lambert, the sackings or non-renewals come with the words ‘….will be leaving along with his management team’. Mourinho is losing his number two, Rui Faria; leaving after a life time association with Jose.

In Mourinho, as with other high profile managers, there is a style acknowledging the need for not just team management but management by a team.

But the management team can, will, must, change and evolve.

West Ham and Everton brought a package and knew exactly what they were getting; you only had to sit and watch Match of the Day re runs to tell you what will happen. Alan Pardew may be the exception to prove the rule. Here was, deliberate pass tense, a gentleman who brought his ‘management team’ in and did you a survival. What was apparent in his time at Crystal Palace was he did not have the management skills nor, it seems, the motivation to do anything differently. His tried and tested approaches did not work because the rest of the sport had moved on. If you are stuck in an age where ‘getting the basics right’ is enough, then you will find excuses like they didn’t give me money to buy more players.

More players in a poor system just means more frustrations and plenty more journeymen.

Brian Clough once famously said to give him a team of average players and he would beat any team with just a couple of stars. Bill Shankly gave newly promoted Liverpool a team talk picking off individual Subbuteo Manchester United players until left with number 10, Bobby Charlton, and then said if you eleven can not beat one man, something is wrong.

The fact shines through, these managers, fore they must go down as some of the most accomplished managers in any industry, knew how to adapt and adopt to the different circumstances. And then they dug into their management toolkits and brought out the requisite tools.

Different ages, different motivational and tactical issues, however the lessons are there for football, team sports and the dynamics of modern people management in business and the public sector.

Their time pasted as time is now passing on the ‘management team’ in soccer with the set ideas. We will start to see new approaches, as with Arsenal who have a set up and now have a manager to bring out the best in their set up and to help it continue to evolve. As with Manchester City who studied the Red side of the city, learnt and have started to surpass (the enormous cash injection has helped and may yet undermine the structural approach).

There has long since been this divide, play the system you have developed no matter the opposition – Arsenal, under Wenger, are seen as taking this approach – or study and change to each and every team and how they are changing to play you. Pardew’s approach as his team’s sought to eke out 0-0 draws and 1-0 wins. Plenty of other teams fall in here under Tony Pullis, Allardyce and maybe Jose Mourinho. If you want an in-depth look at Premier League tactics, read Michael Cox The Mixer.

So what? Where are the management points from this?

We are now seeing the complexity of the task in managing a football, soccer, team sports, business. A manager, or chief or head coach, comes with his ‘management team’, his ‘coaching team or staff’ or just ‘his staff’ as if he is some poor outside caterer. Acceptance of the size and complexity in developing the tactical and technical work on the pitch is there. Let us not forget, these managers or coaches will regularly have to work with others who control the purse strings and any possibilities of investment. They, the coaches if not the managers, will not have much say in the longer term direction of the club if they do not step up to make points. Recently, as with a number of other settings, managers appear willing to go with circumstances and do not stand up to make things happen.

The Club – this is the second strand where people like Lambert and Allardyce may have seemingly read the book and yet, somehow did not grasp some of the nuances of verbal messaging. The classic model of Task – Team – Individual gets lost with these gentlemen who think it novel to say things like – I have a fantastic group of players. Why detract from the team ethos? Why go to group with connotations of loose affiliations? It appears this type of thing has backfired on them as, although tight defences are there, the wider ethos of team working is often missing.

A number of these gentlemen achieved the immediate task but where is the team building for the future?

Do we now have a new status quo setting in English football where making money is taking precedence over results beyond a certain level?


The players are now paid entertainment rates; but are they being allowed to entertain?

The future of football as a business looks assured, the way it is managed is up for debate as we see the cartels at all levels challenged by fresh thinking. How long before Fantasy Football includes a corruption investigation at higher levels, agent contract negotiations and the constant quest for new vocabulary to explain perennial issues?

Sport to learn from business and business to continue to learn from sport on optimal performances? Definitely as more and more we see the insidious creep of coordination into sports – First team coordinator: No not responsible for results, just coordinating. Management and leadership will continue to learn from competitive settings and sport offers these far more than the many business situations and definitely far more often than in the public sector. Time for some inter-departmental games?

See who steps up to deliver – Individuals in a Team delivering on the Task.