Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Football/Soccer - on being a Bluenose

This may come as a surprise to many. I am a Bluenose, meaning, I support Birmingham City Football Club, a.k.a. the Blues.

The Blues (not to be confused with late comers Chelsea) were one of the founding members of the original football league in England, along with neighboring teams Aston Villa and West Bromwich Albion. While those other two teams may have had a more illustrious past (and, in the case of Villa, a reasonable start to this season), I have always been a Bluenose, as supporters are called. Well, that's better than being a Villain or a Baggie!

At the moment the Blues aren't doing very well despite having aspirations to greatness as seen by the large amounts of money invested by the owners Gold brothers and David Sullivan. These characters have plenty of money but it does look like they know how to waste it as well as make it. The manager (or gaffer in soccer-speak) is ex-Manchester United defender Steve Bruce. Bruce may have been a great player but a great manager he ain't. There's a good chance he's going to get the sack later this week and I for one hope he does.

Why?

Well, if you analyze the truly great managers and coaches you will see that there is a not a strong correlation between managers and coaches who were legends at playing the game. In other words, there is a good chance that individual skills do not translate into management skills. This is true in many walks of life and in too many cases we see people promoted into management because of their skills only to fail when dealing with people. I consider Bruce to fit into this category. After every loss he takes the blame (as he should) but never seems to be able to deliver a response. As a result we've seen some truly great players go sideways, even backwards, to be sold at a loss after one miserable season. Part of that responsibility must rest with the owners but they basically buy the players the manager wants.

Across town at Villa Park there has been a revolution since the start of the season with Martin O'Neill taking the helm from David O'Leary. What a difference a true motivator can make with little injection of funds but a whole lot of cajoling and touchline support! That's what the Blues needs.

I am not sure who exactly is out there and available at this time but I bet the owners have already got someone lined up.

What I would most hope for is a manager who can inspire, who understands player psychology and can get the team playing together and above their own individual levels. That isn't impossible. Arsene Wenger has proved it at Arsenel while Alex Ferguson is another who seems able to make the most with what he has. And neither was ever a great player. Birmingham City needs a thinking man as a manager, preferably one who hasn't had an illustrous career with a famous team. Let's see what happens!