Tag Archives: Manager

Leeds United: What we need in a manager

Leeds United require a manager who is revolutionary in his thinking rather than evolutionary, when compared to Neil Warnock. He needs to understand the realities of modern football and what the game has become, and he needs to build a Leeds team around these principles. He does not need to be Pep Guardiola. He just needs to have a reasonable, modern plan, and a second plan when the first fails. Short termism has put Leeds United into this position where we have a short termist manager in charge, who reacts rather than building. The chase of the immediate satisfaction of the play-offs has put a halt to any building process that allows us to climb quickly at once towards the goal with ease. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it would not be built in 10 years if Remus had tried to build it.

Leeds United require a manager who understands the nature of the club. He needs to see himself as part, rather than outside, and understand that the club has been there before him and will be there after him. He needs to think it is a blessing to be at Leeds, and not to think that Leeds are blessed to have him. He needs to understand the fans and not mock them for voicing their opinions.

Leeds United require a manager who looks at the history of the club and understands why the fans are demanding. The reality is that we cannot accept a moment as a triumph until it is above the level we expect. We expect the best. Look at our response to finally leaving League One – job done, on to next year. Where clubs have parades and trophies crafted, we saw it as the first step back to the rise of Leeds. The manager must understand we won’t be satisfied with single results until they become many and we look unquestionably upwards.

Ultimately, Leeds United require a manager who represents a step into the modern era, after 5 steps back into the dark ages. We need the top manager for this level, but one who achieves by deserving to achieve, not through luck or complaints or diving and cheating the system. Not through corner balls or well-timed falls or Ryan Halls, but through deserving to win. As much as it does not matter that the outside world respects the team that walks on the hallowed turf of Elland Road, it matters that the fans that should fill those seats do. When they have that team, one that promises excitement and a belief that the future can be good, and with a little hope and ten tablespoons less luck than Neil Warnock relies on, those seats will be filled at whatever the cost. People just need something to believe in. The right manager will do that for us.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1).

Review: Football Manager Stole My Life

Football Manager Stole My Life by Iain Macintosh, Kenny Millar and Neil White (Published by Backpage Press)


There was a moment yesterday when I had to mentally restrain myself from reinstalling Championship Manager 01/02. I’m not sure whether it was being reminded of David O’Leary’s propensity to take the Manchester United job or the constant mentions of Tonton Zola Moukoko that are contained within Football Manager Stole My Life from Backpage Press. I’m not sure how long the restraint will hold. Championship/Football Manager is arguably my favourite thing of all time.

As an ode to the aforementioned series, therefore, Football Manager Stole My Life (FMSML) is an immensely appealing endeavour. To this haplessly addicted fan, the book’s arrival in the post was an exciting moment. The initial inspection of the book, my sensual grappling with the front cover, revealed some surprising things. It is not the size of a normal book, and flicking through, is clearly presented like an overly long magazine. Freight Design have done an excellent job with the layout, even to this critical eye. Everything is clear and easy to read, and the allusion to the green of a football pitch throughout is a nice touch. The only minor criticism in this regard that can be made is about the usage of black and white images, but this is incredibly minor.

Aside from the aesthetic aspects of the book, FMSML is an immensely readable piece of non-fiction that should be appealing to those who are well acquainted with Sports Interactive’s series.

Earlier this summer, my football club was linked with Freddy Adu, the suggestion being that we had him on trial. It immediately brought back memories of trying to bring him to the club at the age of fourteen on Championship Manager 2003/04. The difficulties of doing so were myriad – age, work permits and the rest all hindered his move to England. The reality was, however, that everyone said he was “worth it”. Discussions between fellow enthusiasts always brought his name up. It brought some joy, therefore, to find out that Freddy Adu is “aware” of his history with the series.

The segment that involves them catching up with Tonton and other stars of games past is therefore of interest, even just as a reminder of those who have come before. In fact, it brings an excellent comparison to the earlier segment where the various researchers point out their successes in calling future stars of the actual sport. The arrival of “Luis Leonardo Messi” in the database in 2004 is heralded as a moment of excellence within the book. It is of note that he had done little prior to this point, yet was still granted the highest potential ability. I’ve often queried how the researchers get the future of football so right, so to hear from them about their processes is interesting. The reality is, however, that actual football sometimes contrasts heavily with the simulated world of Sports Interactive’s making. The same researcher, Ivan Abella Villar, said that Oskitz Estefania of Real Sociedad should have been a player of the same level, yet injuries and the like stopped that dream short. The contrasting successes of these two players, both introduced to the game in the same year, is just one example of how FMSML goes to lengths throughout the book to symbolise the fact that Football Manager manages to live in this bizarre world halfway between reality and fiction. Whilst it seems ridiculous that dots on the screen can quickly translate into full-blown opinions on actual footballers, stories told within the book show the occasional benefit. Tales are told about jobs acquired due to the knowledge of football gathered from the game. Football Manager is shown to be a tool for many in important roles, and aside from being fascinating, it also gives justification to anyone arguing for the need to click continue one more time before bed.

The written highlight of the book comes in the form of The Heidenheim Chronicles, written by Iain Macintosh. The tale of a manager in charge of the worst professional club in Germany, it would probably not be wrong to suggest that the emotions displayed within are Macintosh’s actual reaction to a game of Football Manager gone hilariously awry. Macintosh is clearly a long running player of the game, and with that breeds an expectation of success. The reality of my saved games in recent years is a feeling of being a managerial prodigy dropped into the footballing world. Gone are the days of yore where I felt constantly on a knife’s edge, between acceptable performance, and outright failure and sacking. Macintosh’s writing, which is absolutely excellent, draws incredible amounts of sympathy. There is literally nothing he can do. I’ve made my mistakes on recent versions, such as stupidly taking on the Australia job, where no success can be had. This is soul-destroying. As Macintosh himself explores through an interview with a psychiatrist elsewhere in the book, Football Manager is a world one can escape into and have complete “control”. This goes for everything from tactics to signings. Success usually follows. Heidenheim therefore symbolises perfectly what happens when things do not go right. It is an experience like no other. Madness generally follows. Insane tactics. Heidenheim should therefore be read by all fans of the game. It shows that we are not alone in our instinctive reactions to a bad run. A failed game can be more painful than anything. As a piece of fiction, all Football Manager addicts need to read this, incredible sympathy will be evoked. This snippet of text suggests that the great Football Manager novel should yet be written.

The exploration of Football Manager’s beginnings is interesting, if not a tad confusing for those of us who are less acquainted with the names behind the game. It is also heartening to gain an excuse as to why purchasing every year’s edition of Football Manager is worth my time, as it provides benefits to organisations that deserve it. Furthermore, the segment about extreme habits provides some solace – I’m not the worst player on the planet. I have never gone on an open bus tour to celebrate a cup victory. However, I am mildly tempted to start emulating conditions for those tricky away European ties. Whilst the book suggests setting a wastepaper bin on fire to create an atmosphere akin to those travels to Turkey, I’m more interested in somehow making matches in Eastern Europe seem more difficult due to the inclement weather – after all, I am the sort of person who suggests getting Zenit and Sparta Prague in the group stages is a tough draw. The reality is that for a player of the game, there are enough moments and narrative beats that evoke thoughts and memories to make it a worthwhile purchase. If you’re considering purchasing it for yourself, consider no more. You will enjoy it, guaranteed.

The real question is the enjoyment non-players could glean from it. The stories of slightly insane players can still entertain someone who is not a fan, as demonstrated by my reading of them out to those in the vicinity to laughter, but this alone does not make up the book. The player profiles and the other referential items that make up a vast majority of the book would be lost on the average reader. Who is Nil Lamptey to them and what do they care? Why would learning about the environment in which the game was created (seemingly the same as that in which the game is often played) be of interest to them? The reality is, sadly, the book will be primarily read and enjoyed by fans of the game. This is not to say it will be niche – the majority of football fans I interact with are at least somewhat acquainted with FM. It merely means that before purchasing the book for a loved one, ensure they have an addictedness rating of at least “remember to call your work and ask for more sick leave”. You’ll probably already know.

Four Stars out of Five


Purchase Football Manager Stole My Life from Amazon for £9.09
Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter (@awinehouse1) to be repeatedly jabbed with a large ‘read me now’ stick whenever a new article goes up.

Why Grayson’s sacking is hard to countenance

“The third year is fatal” said Bela Guttmann, with regards to managers, cited often enough that it is has fallen into the football manager’s psyche. The dressing room loses respect for the manager. The manager gains an affinity for certain players above others, form or class aside. Opposition figure out how to deal with any tactics or innovations the manager initially brought to the table. Pep Guardiola, arguably the crafter behind one of the greatest teams of all time, is constantly on the verge of quitting the Barcelona job every summer. Last year, after winning the Liga BBVA and the Champions League once again, most in the media were gearing up for his departure. It therefore comes as little surprise that a mere month after his three month anniversary at the club, Simon Grayson, now ex-manager of Leeds United, has left Elland Road.

Last night (31st January 2012), Leeds United capitulated at home to Birmingham, losing 4-1 almost single-handedly to a striker who has only scored 8 goals this season. This despite the fact that reports from the ground suggested that the first half performance was one of the best Leeds have had for a long while. This is the truth of the latter part of Simon Grayson’s reign. This season, and during the back-end of last season, Elland Road has not been a particularly wonderful place to watch football.

There was a moment a week and a half ago, as Leeds played Ipswich, that one felt Grayson had lost anything that he may once have had. The day was windy, and any manager with slight tactical nous would have recommended the ball remain on the floor. Any ball sent upfield by goalkeeper or defender would get caught in the wind. Yet Leeds came out of the tunnel and, like most performances this year, the strikers found themselves confined to challenging defenders in the air. Admittedly, Leeds managed to win the match 3-1, but this was exclusively due to the capitulation of the Ipswich back line, and the granting of a red card to his former team by usually sturdy goalkeeper Alex McCarthy. Fans driving away from the ground last night would be caught up in a temporary surge of optimism, but by the time the radio phone-in had begun, it was clear that the fans’ discontent had not been assuaged by the result. There were clear faults with Grayson’s approach in their eyes.

This is the man, however, that lead Leeds United to Old Trafford as a League One side, and won. This is the man, however, that lead Leeds United to White Hart Lane as a League One side, and managed to take a draw. This is the man, however, that lead Leeds United out of said League One. A manager who achieves these results is clearly not bad at his job. Managing players of the quality at his disposal to a victory against Man Utd takes an incredible amount of tactical and motivational awareness. This is why it becomes hard to countenance his sacking. Clearly the ability is there, and somewhere along the way he has lost it.

Rumours have emanated from Elland Road for the past year or so that Grayson has lost the dressing room. The manner in which he freezes out players after a single bad performance, leading to them rotting in the reserves, and never getting an appearance in the first team no matter how much they are suited for the job necessary, is clearly not conducive to a harmonious club. Word that Grayson’s affair, reported in the red-top media, led to him losing favour with Ken Bates and Bates’ wife was rife. The manner in which Grayson dealt with Andy O’Brien, chastising him and saying he would never play for him again, yet back-tracking when depression turned out to be at fault for his refusal to play again for the side, revealed plenty about how Grayson worked with his players.

This might be where Grayson, the man who did so well for Leeds a mere two years prior, fell down. As Guttmann said, the third year is fatal, and particularly key to Grayson may be the thoughts the dressing room had about him towards the end. Leigh Bromby’s wife posted on Facebook immediately after the sacking that it was “karma”, and simply said “good riddance”. Bromby clearly brought work back home with him.

The ability was, therefore, there at one point, but it has since been lost. This is why Leeds fans have hung onto positivity towards Grayson, despite the falls. It must be said that Grayson could probably sustain success for longer under a Chairman that does not treat the playing side of the club with such contempt. Grayson, however, in the end, is to blame, possibly for not leaving earlier. His replacement, awash with innovation, will probably get more out of a team of players coveted by Premier League sides. The real shame to Leeds fans that remember the football played in the early days, is that Grayson simply did not learn the lessons of Guttmann.

Follow Amitai Winehouse on Twitter.