The Gaffer

Neil Warnock, 2013, Headline Book Publishing

Neil Warnock is an old-fashioned manager. He would probably admit it himself and agree that he doesn’t really fit anymore in this world of coaches with a tactical visions and match plans, which usually prefer younger players, because they can be taught more easily and have a better technical education than the older players. Just a quote: Obviously I’ve had better players at more recent clubs, and the game is more conducive to passing now, but I still want the fans to go home thinking they’ve seen some action: shots, crosses, saves and so on. I’d hopeless managing England[..]. All that passing 20 times to get to the halfway line, it bores me daft. I really think we should play our natural game, play at a good tempo – you do have to gamble sometimes. And that is all you will hear about tactics and the game itself.
Warnock’s world is the one of these teams between first and third league of a country, who always bring guys like him in at the end of the season, when everyone is desperate and you just hope that the momentum which comes with a manager change holds long enough to keep you up for another year. If it does, he is allowed to stay another year before he gets into the same situation as his predecessor, because the issue in the club is not the manager but the infrastructure or the decision makers or the frequent changes, which do not allow to plan for long-term success. And so the manager goes back into the pool of similar managers and will be chosen by a team with similar problems, not because of his great successes, but because he is decent and conservative and after the fancy guy from abroad or the inexperienced youth coach, who didn’t work out, they need someone who can deliver just the standard and ordinary to save the team. That will go on for coaches like Warnock their whole career till they have managed all teams in that situation and everybody knows, what to expect from them, so that they cannot surprise anyone anymore. When they reach that point only retirement or a job abroad in a soccer developing country is possible.
That sounds worse than it should, because there are successes. There is the one team they stay with longer than 2 years and they really build up something because they got the time. And there are real successes, phenomenal seasons, promotions, successful cup games, which make it worth to keep going.
And that is what Warnock describes in the book. His time at Queens Park Rangers, winning a promotion and later being sacked during fighting relegation in Premier League, is the background for describing the day-to-day work of a manager. How do you start, when you come to a team, which fights relegation and you try to lift the spirits and to fix the major issues, especially in defense, how do you use every transfer window to get some solid players, “real men”, no youngsters without experience, because you don’t have the time to grow them, not when you fight promotion and not when you fight relegation. He describes a matchday and what traveling means, why he doesn’t like international games and how to work with the media, how to deal with difficult characters and how everything goes down the drain finally. It is a complete documentation of the time, when the cameras turn-off after matchday and before they turn on the next week. For that reason this book is a classic.
Neil Warnock is not a star coach but he is unique, like Jörg Berger and Peter Neururer in Germany. You will hardly find this type of managers in the future, because it is easier today to bring in a manager from another country or for managers to go abroad themselves, so that no one probably stays his whole career in one country managing all available teams in one league. Nevertheless you can learn a lot from this book about the real life, no football manager game can ever simulate, which makes it so hard to be the gaffer.

Biography: 2/3
History: 1/3
Background: 3/3
Tactics & Game philosophy: 0/3

Must read for: No One >> Fans of English soccer >> Soccer fans >> All readers


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