Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Player with the First Team Shirt

For every football manager, success depends on the team. The talent of the team greatly determines how many goals you would score, games you would win, and the respect you get from other managers. Clearly Sir Alex Fergurson is a good example, winning thropies and building a fan base for Manchester United. But not all managers are Fergurson or based in England, most of us, especially in Nigeria have to make do with the players we have. Don't get me wrong, here in Nigeria we do have players with immense attacking and defending abilities, Barca. standard, that were good upfront and could fall back when needed. But with the mentality of players like Obafemi Martins, the challenge was how to get them commit to your club?

When I hangout with other managers and discuss the game play and strategies we adopted I realised the manager's abilities were greatly tested off the field than on the field. Ok, you have a player that was very attractive plus active and could play on the field for 90 minutes BUT how could you get the player to continue wearing your jersey for 90 games, to even get to the field in the first place? The challenge was that either you have a grass root team like the managers in UNILAG or you studied Economics like Arsene Wenger, have in mind we have the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City managers out there that are willing to spend the money they could have used to buy a whole team on a player, your most valuable player.

That was why it was difficult to give a player a first team shirt. It was the greatest honour any player could have. Even the players knew that and would have to extend their contracts if given. Skills, talent, and commitment had to be shown. I understand how tough it was for players to commit to a club, after all the active years of a player wasn't much and had to be on a lookout for a better offer. A 20 years old player, now that's future prospect BUT a 27 to 32 years old player, they had to start thinking about hanging their boots. So every player out there had to benefit themselves during their opportunity period before the final whistle blows. I had this manager friend who had a weak team, he badly needed a Torres and was willing to pay for it. Even the player knew the manager was desperate and showed this by the ridiculous sign off fee demanded. The contract was outrageous, from the clothing to the feeding allowances. My friend didn't care, he knew the impact a Torres would have on him and his team. It was a domino effect, his other players would have to step up their game to become the manager's favourite [and hopefully get off the bench and have a first team shirt]. He made a mistake which Fergurson would never make, he made the player feel bigger than the team. The player was talented no doubt but had no field experience but that didn't bother him. He saw the player the same way as Liverpool's Carragher. Since the player had no experience playing for another team, he assumed if he treated the player well there would be no basis for comparison and the player wouldn't have to leave. The player had the debut with him and became instant favourite. He forgot something, all league matches were played home and away especially when you have a complete football team. There were times you would have to use another team's stadium as the training ground for convenience sake and also enable the player train without distraction nor the press. During one of his away matches, the player was blown away by the stadium. The player made instant connection especially with the manger of the away team. Suddenly, the player began to miss training. My friend would call but the agent would pick the call telling him the player was not around. The next message the manager got was a transfer request sent via text. His Torres had been practising with the away team. The news spread so also with pictures. Like what Chelsea FC did to get the services of Torres from Liverpool FC, the player had a very high transfer fee. The manager lost it and the respect from his other players as well. Soon he lost his job and all the players and he wasn't so gay [about it].

He decided to get back into the game with new tactics, he would follow Arsene Wenger's philosophy and build a strong youth team. A youth team that would be difficult to be tempted by other managers' offers. He learnt another lesson. At first no one was interested in his players but as they kept scoring goals other managers saw their potentials they made their bid. My friend refused. The players themselves were committed BUT even C. Ronaldo had to move when Real Madrid came calling. The players, not wanting to appear ungrateful, began to demand to be listed on loan. One said, "I need to know my potential. I need to know if it's best to end my career here with this club. I wouldn't want to retire not knowing what was out there."

I know girls would see it as we managers being selfish, why coach a football team? The truth is even managers of Tennis players find it difficult to maintain their jobs. Like R. Kelly rightly sang, "When a [player]'s fed up, there's nothing you can do about it."


  1. wow,..u're really into soccer hey
    u even get to chill with the managers? hmm.. badt guy! :p

  2. Kitkat don't tell me you really...really think I was talking about football. The players I was referring to are actually girls.

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