Stuart Rayner: Manager’s remit different in modern game

The role of an English football manager has changed immeasurably over the last 15 years

Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio
Sunderland boss Paolo Di Canio

The role of an English football manager has changed immeasurably over the last 15 years.

When Mick Wadsworth and Lawrie McMenemy began their careers, the manager was all-powerful. Anything connected with football was his domain.

Now that is impossible. Football clubs have gone from parochial outfits run by local businessmen to multi-national organisations, often owned overseas, coached by foreigners and followed by fans around the globe.

Squads are massive, youth set-ups wide-reaching, media demands incessant. Success is expected yesterday. Worrying about much more than tomorrow is a lot to ask of the manager.

Sunderland are owned by a Texan, Ellis Short, and the football department now dominated by Italians who grew up with the director of football structure.

“The director of football role is a foreign-type thing and most Premier League owners are foreign people and not necessarily football people,” stresses McMenemy, whose manage-ment career started with Bishop Auckland in 1964 and ended with Northern Ireland in 2000.

Sunderland and England Under-21s were two of those he managed along the way.

“It’s vital the people working day-to-day are football-minded but I doubt they all are,” adds the League Managers Association’s vice-president.

“Now the director of football has got to keep more of an eye on the finance bit and he’s put in place to look after the owners more than the manager.”

The Football Association championed Wadsworth as one of the bright stars of English coaching in the mid-1980s and, as well as taking in a number of European countries, his coaching career also saw him manage the Congo and St Kitts and Nevis.

He is still in management today with Northern League Celtic Nation. You cannot have such a varied cv without being able to adapt.

“Years and years ago a chairman would not express a view on which players should be signed,” he notes. “Even the smallest club now has a chief executive and they have a huge impact upon all matters relating to football.

“You have people like (Roman) Abramovich sticking his nose in at Chelsea for the last nine or 10 years, but then they’ve had more success in that time than any other period in their history, so maybe that’s the way a club should be run. I don’t know anymore.

“No club’s the same, they all have different perceptions of what’s right.”

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Stuart Rayner
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