Arrigo Sacchi is famous for being one of the more innovative European football managers in the game with AC Milan in the lat 1980s, but he’s also well-known for his response to questions over his credentials to manager football as someone who never played the game professionally: “I never realised that in order to become a jockey you have to have been a horse first.”
It stands to reason there may be more jockeys and fewer horses managing football clubs in Europe over the next couple of decades. Take for example Juergen Klopp’s approach to coaching, using nothing more than intensive video review:
For me the best analysis is to watch the game again. I know it’s very old fashioned. Tape in, forward and rewind, forward and rewind…a thousand times…spent 5 or 6 hours on a 90 minute game. I haven’t been able to do it any faster. But to be clear: this was my education, no book or seminars or anything from renowned trainers. 10 games a week and I usually started before breakfast.
Improvement in football viewing experiences for the layman or woman at home may give prospective managers even more insight into on-field actions. Moreover, improvements in data-gathering technology will allow them to measure their visual impressions against the available data, or even track it themselves.
It means that a dedicated viewer at home could pick apart a single 90 minute match, make a reasoned diagnosis, and figure out what he might tell his or her players to improve on their performance, or how the team could improve as a whole. In the meantime, perhaps UEFA might make basic, on-line coaching courses available for a nominal fee to interested amateurs.
Ideally, this could eventually spell a greater influx of those outside the professional player mill as prospective managers.
There are some obvious criticisms to address: first, no matter of education and access to visual and data resources can make up for ineffable qualities like leadership. But this would apply to anyone interested in coaching or management, whether they’re a former player or not.
Then there’s the question of how can someone who knows nothing about what it’s like to play football tell born-and-bred footballers what to do on a football pitch?
As someone from the professional classical music realm, this has never made sense to me. Some of the greatest orchestras in the world are conducted by people who can’t play a single instrument or sing in tune if their life depended on it. Some of the most gorgeous music ever recorded was written by music scholars who cannot play the instruments for which they compose. They are deeply musical people nonetheless.
This distinction has yet to reach the football world, and it’s to its detriment. The lower-leagues in England for example are a wasteland of failed manager’s whose tenuous grip on the game is characterized by a life of careerism and opportunities well-taken. Meanwhile , an entire class of people from all walks of life are denied an opportunity to make their stamp on a game loved and understood by far more than play it.
As technology improves and as coaching and theory becomes more widely-available, that could change.