The Last Word: Some coaches need to learn how to manage

When Jose Mourinho led Chelsea to back-to-back English Premier League titles in his first two seasons in charge, he didn't really get the credit he deserved.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
When Jose Mourinho led Chelsea to back-to-back English Premier League titles in his first two seasons in charge, he didn't really get the credit he deserved. The majority of soccer fans and pundits seemed to find it easy to claim that Chelsea had "bought" the championship with Russian owner Roman Abramovich's millions, ignoring the incredible management job Mourinho had done at the London club. In a short space of time, the suave Portuguese coach had built a side which not only played superb soccer and worked well together on the pitch, but also had great team spirit. Too much was made of the money Mourinho spent and not enough of the way he chose players and how he put them together and encouraged them to play. When you look at Chelsea's best performers over the last two years, it is the previously unknowns who stand out rather than the superstars. Who had really heard of Drogba, Robben, Ferreira, Cech or Carvalho before they came to Chelsea. Sure they were good players playing at a relatively high European standard, but they were not the world class names they are today. On the other hand, it is the big name players like Ballack, Shevchenko and even the much touted Shaun Wright Phillips who have not impressed. Mourinho has known how to manage the players to get the best out of them (just look at the transformation of Joe Cole), who to play and when to play them - man-management at its best. It is in England that the job of the man running a soccer team is called a manager, rather than a coach. The word may be familiar to Israelis who have enjoyed the Championship Manager computer games or seen the classic movie Mike Basset: England Manager. But here in Israel, and too often in other places around the world the job of a coach is only to coach, and the need to manage is ignored. One of the saddest examples of this is the appalling performances of England's national team, not only in soccer but also in the country's two other major sports - rugby and cricket over the past 12 months. Where only a few years ago, England was viewed as one of the best, if not the best, in these three sports, 2006 has seen a sorry fall from grace. After an embarrassing performance in the World Cup, where England failed to play well in any of its five matches, the soccer team is now in danger of not qualifying for the 2008 European championship following the loss in Croatia. To say that the England rugby team - which only three years ago basked in glory after winning the coveted World Cup by beating Australia in the final in Sydney - is in disarray would be an understatement. And most Englishmen would rather not think about the country's cricket team, which has been nothing less than annihilated by an on-form and passionate Australia in the Ashes over the last couple of weeks. All three of these teams are packed with quality players available for selection. It is only the bad management that let down the team, and the country. The most obvious is the rugby team. During the recent series of Test matches, it became increasingly difficult to even look at pictures of former head coach Andy Robinson as he led England to its worse run in years, losing eight out of nine matches. He had the face of a defeated man, not one who could inspire his charges. Thankfully, he finally vacated the position in November. In soccer, if Sven Goran Erikkson was bad enough, and he was bad, choosing the wrong players and playing them in the wrong positions, his replacement, Steve Mclaren, is even worse. The former Middlesbrough boss inspires no confidence or excitement and it's no wonder the team has been playing even worse than before. In cricket, Duncan Fletcher and Andy Flintoff perplexed the entire cricketing world by picking the under-par Ashley Giles over the vibrant Monty Panesar, on top of other bad decisions. In Israeli sports, it's the same. Betar Jerusalem may be at or near the top of the Premier League, but the team has not been managed well by any of the head coaches since Ton Caanen left. Luis Fernandez has been praised as a tactician, but he never really cared about anything but the money, and Ossie Ardiles didn't understand the first thing about Israeli soccer. Yossi Mizrahi has been unable to build a team. Mizrahi needs to take a leaf out of Mourinho's books if the yellow-and-black aren't to be overtaken by Roni Levy's improving Maccabi Haifa, or even Yitzhak Schum's Hapoel Tel Aviv come May.