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Book Review : The Manager : Inside the Minds of Football's Leaders by Mike Carson

Monday 16th May 2016
Just what does it take to be a manager in the elite leagues, or any division for that matter? If you thought it was simply a case of answering some questions to the press and picking eleven players, then you NEED to read this book. We did, and were rewarded by being given a unique insight from some of the world most renowned managers.

This article provides an impartial view of the book which helps us understand the trials, tribulations and key decisions which every manager has to make.

The Manager : Inside the Minds of Football's Leaders

Author : Mike Carson

Publisher : Bloomsbury

Published date : 29th August 2013
This well-presented publication is littered with condensed sound bites from a whole host of managers such as Carlo Ancelotti, Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger, with an excellent supporting narrative provided from author Mike Carson. Carson makes us realise just how difficult the role of a manager is, and how it has evolved in recent years. He even cites and references politics and business in relation to management to show the scale of responsibility that managers are now burdened with. We are constantly reminded of the sheer magnitude of the task that managers have to face, with regards to getting results and fostering a team mentality, as well as appeasing players, fans and the board. As aforementioned, it is certainly unique with regards to the format of managers such as Jose Mourinho providing their insight, before Carson comments and analyses what each respective manager has said or done.  In addition to this, he contrasts the differing approaches of managers, effectively telling us that there is no 'right' way to go about being a No 1, it is a case of every leader providing their own techniques and impetus. He also does so in a jargon-free style, and thus readers or football enthusiasts of any level will be able to enjoy this publication. It is certainly an informative and opinionated read, but Carson writes in a manner which does not force his viewpoint onto you.

Specifically, this book would certainly appeal to anybody with an interest in what it takes to be a football manager, as well as both fledgling and experienced coaches wanting to know more from those at the top of their game. The leadership techniques which Carson and the managers draw upon can also be utilised in a range of contexts, and applied to team development within any setting. Put simply, it is a case of managing people and a constant ever-changing context and environment. This book, however, does not put it simply; it gives us a detailed account from the perspective of those who have been there and done it.

Within the book, a lot can be learned about what a manager actually does, and the how the rigid hierarchy that they report to factors into their decision making. Most particularly, Carson focuses on the relationship between manager and Chairman. We read about the success story of Tony Pulis and Peter Coates, with the former making a triumphant return to Stoke City after the influence and passion of local Chairman Coates. We also hear from Neil Warnock, who gives a detailed insight of when things aren't all plain sailing with the board. Carson does not utilise quotes from the same managers overtly, nor does he do so conservatively at the same time. He dedicates chapters and sub-sections to an area he feels certain managers views are related to, and the quotes he uses are both productive to the narrative and also reflective in the general context and theme of the overall book.

As aforementioned, Carson continuously cites why the role of a manager has evolved, as well as how time and contextual factors have shifted public perception of a manager. For example, he references how the development of social media has shifted the way fans respond to football matters, both on and off the field. When the going is bad, public opinion is certainly important in fuelling negative stories surrounding both a club, and more specifically, their manager. We also have examples of how the art of journalism has changed, with football writers under increasing pressure to deliver stories, and thus threatening their relationship with managers in doing so.

Even though this book was first published in 2013, we can still reference it to the ever-changing football climate three years on. Within an exclusive 'Behind the scenes' section, we hear from Arsene Wenger on his dedication to football and his club Arsenal. In recent weeks, much has been made of Wenger's tenure at Arsenal, with some pundits claiming that his time is up at North London after a tame second half of this seasons Premier League. The Frenchman's motivations for staying and his aforementioned passion is evident when he claims "What keeps me going is my love for the game, for doing the job I do and for football. I have that internal desire to be as good as I can... Sometimes in the job I feel very average when I don't deliver results, but there is something  in every individual that pushes him to try an be excellent." Carson continuously references fledgling managers and their uncertainty, but this is a prime example of a very experienced and accomplished manager who still feels under pressure. Despite this, Wenger remains true to his principles and beliefs; traits which Carson claims are invaluable to the modern day manager.

In a similar sense, values in the book can also be applied to what Claudio Ranieri has done at Leicester this season, he has united everyone at the club : from the fans and the Chairman, to his players, and the belief in such values has certainly paid dividends after their maiden Premier League title. At the other end of the table, insight from Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce, during his time at struggling Bolton is also useful when he claims that there was "a siege mentality" created whilst at the Lancashire side. He goes on to claim that "We turned the challenge to our own advantage, and the confidence of the club grew." Allardyce also focuses on the importance of a winning and positive environment as being a catalyst for success, an interesting area of the book which Carson dedicated a chapter to.

This book is what can be described as the perfect read for any football fan - it strikes a balance between providing us with light-hearted, comical stories from some of the most accomplished managers, whilst also maintaining a serious and pragmatic approach to leadership. The book also provides us with plenty of historical context, Carson's narrative gives an in-depth look at what the catalysts for the success of Shankly's Liverpool were, for example. He also looks at the case of Jose Mourinho, and his adaption from the Portuguese League to the Premier League. We see how his mentality changes and also the principles that he stayed loyal to. Throughout the book, Carson cites people as being the key to management. Despite all the changes in technology and contextual developments, it is human beings who are after all, at the centre of football. This book provides us with a fascinating insight into how people work together in the most pressurised of environments, and they either thrive there or just about survive. A real must read for any football fan.
Chris Baily

From Liverpool, I am also a life-long Reds supporter. I enjoy watching, writing and participating in football. As well as watching the Premier League, I also keep a keen eye on leagues across Europe, such as the Bundesliga, La Liga and Serie A.

Total articles: 20

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