Ade Ojeikere

THERE are two types of coaches – those sacked and those waiting for the sack letter. Indeed, a coach is as good as his/her last game. The paradox in coaching is that when the team excel, the players take the credit with the media celebrating them to the high heavens. Wait for it, when the team loses games, the coach gets the stick with the players blaming the manager’s tactics that brought them glory in the past.

Unfortunately, coaches earn far less than many of the big players, which isn’t good enough especially if such players are the big boys in the game. The tendency for management to kowtow to their views on everything almost turn such stars into monsters. But sadly, because of such players immense talent, coaches tend to build their team’s style of play around them. Conflicts, no matter how little between such big players and the coaches, tears the team into two, if it is left to fester, with the management supporting the players and leaving the coaches on the lurch.

For the coaches, there isn’t anywhere to hide. The supporters soon seize the opportunity of a crisis to vent their spleen on the coaches, most times flying white handkerchiefs around match venues to indicate their need for the coach’s services to be dispensed with. Some unruly ones go to the disturbing extent of hoisting flags in the skies with several messages pointing to the sack of such irritant coaches.

Very few club managers stand by their coaches during these periods. In fact, those who stand by their coaches are eventually hoodwinked into sacking them when supporters threaten not to buy the team’s match tickets again. Disgruntled ones among them openly destroy their jerseys, even to the extent of burning the club memorabilia in anger after defeats. What these fans and managements of clubs don’t understand is that no coach sets out his players to lose any game. And since soccer has three likely results – wins, losses or draws- they should be prepared to stomach poor results in the same manner they savour victories.

The argument that coaches recruit the players and decide all technical matters is laughable when juxtaposed with the ease with which they are sacked. No coach can recruit players without the management’s approval. We have seen many instances where management forces players on coaches. Such interferences affect a team’s outing, with key players always on the management’s side.

Back in July 2007, Jose Mourinho delivered a veiled warning to Chelsea’s Director of Football, Avram Grant, that he will not tolerate any interference in the dug-out after the Israeli was appointed by Roman Abramovich.

“The club was very clear with their statement when he arrived,” said Mourinho at Chelsea’s hotel in Beverly Hills. “From my point of view, it won’t interfere with the power I have in relation to my job. It’s not my job to speak about him or about what he has to do at the club. The statement was clear. He’s here to try to give some support to some different areas in the club and, for me, that’s not a problem, that’s not a problem.

“If the club wants to bring people in to make the club better, to create a job for someone, to give support to different areas of the club, that’s no problem. I welcome him, I’ll try to help him adapt to a club like Chelsea.”

During the 2004 season Chelsea broke their club records for the fewest goals conceded and highest number of points in a season and that resulted in the best league placing for the club in 49 years. The club finished runners-up in the Premier League to Arsenal under Claudio Ranieri. But the Italian was fired by the Chelsea owner.

Ranieri went on to win the 2015/16 Premier League with Leicester City despite being rated as 5,000–1 outsiders to win the title; he was sacked the following season after a spate of poor results.

Mauricio Pochettinho helped Tottenham Hotspur to the UEFA Champions League final during the 2018/19 season but lost 2-0 to Liverpool. The following season, Chairman Daniel Levy sanctioned his sack and replaced him with Jose Mourinho. This life indeed no balance!

In June 2007, Real Madrid sacked coach Fabio Capello 11 days after he led the Los Blancos to their first Primera Liga title for the first time in four years. Ernesto Valverde won back-to-back La Liga titles for Barcelona in 2016/2017 and 2018/2019 seasons. But there were murmurs he was taking the team away from the possession-based tiki-taka style. The die-hard fans didn’t just want to win, they wanted to win with panache. By January 2020, he was booted out of the club despite leading the La Liga table by two-point. The team ended the 2019/2020 season trophyless, losing the domestic title to Real Madrid by a whopping five-point.

Arsène Wenger was manager of Arsenal for 22 years, winning the Premier League three times (1997/98, 2001/02, 2003/04), FA Cup seven times (1997/98, 2001/02, 2002/03, 2004/05, 2013/14, 2014/15, 2016/17) and Community Shield seven times (1998, 1999, 2002, 2004, 2014, 2015, 2017). Since the Frenchman’s departure, the North London side has won only the FA Cup under the guidance of former player Mikel Arteta, who took over from Unai Emery.

Wenger’s long stay at Arsenal yielded good results on the pitch leading to the building of the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal hasn’t been able to surpass Wenger’s records, losing what used to be the team’s birthright – playing at the UEFA Champions League consistently for 17 years. Arsenal’s absence from the competition in Arsène Wenger’s final season cost the club only 8 per cent of its total £423 million football revenues the previous year, 2016/17, the last in which they played in the Champions League.

Where do we start from with Chelsea’s Managers? Notorious for sacking coaches and even players. Up Blues! What a slogan coaches like Claudio Ranieri, Jose Mourinho, Avram Grant, Felipe Scolari, Guus Hiddink, Carlo Ancelotti, Villas-Boas, Roberto Di Matteo, Rafa Benitez, Jose Mourinho, Guus Hiddink, Antonio Conte and Maurizio Sarri won’t want to hear. They brought joy to Stamford Bridge followers weekly, yet they were kicked out of the club due to poor results. You wonder if clubs must win all of its matches. Such clubs which must win all matches had better not participate in competitions. They can just train and present trophies to themselves without kicking a ball.

For some coaches on this list, their names appear twice showing that in sports, albeit soccer, thunder can strike on one spot twice. Mourinho and Hiddink have been sacked twice at Chelsea, but this writer salutes their courage in showing Chelsea’s owners that soccer isn’t a war theatre but a recreation for winners and losers. Do-or-die? Not with soccer at least.

The greatest of all coaches in Europe without any doubtful is Sir Alex Ferguson. need I enumerate his qualities? Ferguson is still passionate about the game. may god continue to keep him alive. Great man, Ferguson. However, Ferguson spent 26 years at Old Trafford and won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, five FA Cups, and two UEFA Champions League titles. After he left Old Trafford, the Red Devils have struggled to find a manager that can bring the same level of success at the club. David Moyes, Ryan Giggs, Louis Van Gaal, Jose Mourinho and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer. Although, Van Gaal brought Anthony Martial from AS Monaco and gave Marcus Rashford his breakthrough season, it wasn’t enough as he got fired despite winning the FA Cup in 2016, securing United their first trophy since the Fergie days.

Mourinho oversaw the most prolific era since the Fergie days, winning the League Cup and Europa League in 2017, whilst guiding the club to a second-place finish in the Premier League a year later – their highest since 2013 before he was sacked.

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