Time is of the essence; we want sustained success and we want it now! Fans across the world want silverware, titles and accolades and as they rest of the world is able to deliver instantly in the can-do, have-what-you-want, here-and-now culture, sport has unfortunately found itself reflecting society once more.
At the end of 2012/13 Premier League Season there was a point where fans across the world could reflect on the retirement of a number of high-calibre individuals from the elite level of sport. Individuals who have become synonymous with high standards and longevity within the game. Many of them role models to not only younger generation growing up watching sport today, but also to many current players still applying their trade in one of the toughest leaves in the world.
With so many challenges to their positions within the sport, they have faced up to these challenges, adapted, and then moved themselves to have even higher level of performance. The classic embodiment of Darwinist theory; the survival of the fittest. Rather than resting on their laurels, they have looked to the future, seen the changes coming and prepared for them.
BUILT ON STRONG FOUNDATIONS
Take Sir Alex Ferguson. Embedded within each glowing reminiscent prose is a direct reference to his background; a working class lad who by applying himself, maximising his talents, became one of the world’s leading coaches or managers in any sport. Indeed many of his personal characteristics shine through in the teams that he has developed and metamorphasised over the years. Think of many of the characters who plied their trade for him: Roy Keane – hard-working, focussed, uncompromising, a leader! Bryan Robson similarly, and Paul Scholes too! These guys were there to balance the flair of players like Ronaldo, Cantona, Beckham. And while many of the creative players came and went, the rocks on which Ferguson build his teams were stayers. Scholes was a one-club player; like Giggs too!
TIME TO ADAPT
Adaptation of course takes time, some will adapt quickly given a specific set of circumstances. Location, resources, finance, people may all have to come together in some way to allow the rapid change to occur. In their absence more time is required to allow for certain circumstances to change; to generate more money or to recruit new people. But while change is expected or even demanded, the culture that needs to adapt is not given time to do so. The manager is sacked because the fans have become restless or the ‘stated goals’ are not achieved.
How much time is enough time though? How much resource do you need. Many players and managers will keep asking for more, just that extra little bit that they need to make the jigsaw complete. Yet the true winners, the majorly successful characters don’t wait for change. They cause it.
Certain circumstances in sport can create opportunities for change. Retirements certainly allow an organisation to review the situation and choose to maintain their course, or choose an alternative direction. It’s a good time to review everything. The end of season is also an appropriate bookend with a detailed review of performances across the board from top-down. But change, while inevitable is not always welcomed and can create very different reactions in people and organisations.
Within the dressing room at Manchester United each player would have had a personal relationship with the manager; he brought every single one of them to the club. Now only one player with the walls of the club as a prior relationship with the incoming manager – and that didn’t end well! But even financial institutions reacted to the news of change. The valuation of the club was knocked down by 5% – probably enough lost value to power League 1 & 2 for 2 or 3 years!
Change needs to be managed; privately and publicly. Support may be required by some to allow them to come to terms with change. But all too often in football, the ‘most important people within the club – the players’ are left to their own devices. And that, is unfortunately one thing that hasn’t changed, psychological support to the players. Perhaps that will change too…
PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE – AND NECESSITY
To conclude, current culture in sport and life is for fast change and instant success. Yet what we have seen this weekend is perhaps the end of a bygone era of longevity within footballs. Managers and players who have spent considerable time within the sport, dedicated themselves to serve the sport, and given so much joy to many, retire from the sport. However, it is fantastic to think that at the end of the careers (or at the point of change in their careers) they have had the chance to retire – rather than be retired!
Owners & fans need to have patience and allow the manager to create something. It’s not for public consultation how the manager chooses to build his team, the style of play, the type of player. Give them time and more often than not they will achieve success. Unfortunately too many never get enough!
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