What matters most – reputation or results? One of my father-in-law’s favourite maxims (and there are a few…) is that “Its your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude.” In other words, enthusiasm and drive beats experience. But if this were universally true in sport, armchair managers from Land’s End to John o’Groats would be swapping their front rooms for the boot room.
In December, the England Rugby Football Union (RFU) named Stuart Lancaster as interim head coach for the duration of the Six Nations tournament.
Lancaster’s previous roles in rugby management include two years as director of rugby at Leeds and handling England’s Saxons development squad. As such his appointment was met with some concern due to his apparent lack of top-level experience.
We now find ourselves ahead of the final games in the tournament and Lancaster’s men have won three of four matches – including last week’s rousing 22-24 win against the France team in Paris. The RFU, for its part, has so far refused to give Lancaster the long-term nod. His assistant Graham Rowntree has described the current situation as “beyond strange”.
An evangelical choice
On first sight, sport appears to be a results-driven industry, but its odd how often said results seem of secondary concern. This week, Kenny Dalglish offered up Liverpool’s recently won sponsorship and kit deals as bizarre examples of his management prowess (see below).
Over in the US, last year’s NFL season was dominated by one story: Tim Tebow. The super-evangelical Denver Broncos quarterback with an admittedly poor throwing arm came in after Denver had lost four of their first five games. Post Tebow’s introduction the team won six out of seven games, including a run of remarkable fourth-quarter comebacks, and ultimately qualified for the playoffs: a feat they had not achieved since 2005. Even after the run of results, the questions remained: “Is this kid any good? Do we give him the starting job?”
If Tebow was being judged solely on results he’d be a Nike shoe-in for the job. But Denver is now courting the highly experienced quarterback – and all-time great – Peyton Manning for the slot, which speaks volumes.
Young gun or steady hand?
It’s easy to forget that sport is not just a pastime, but an industry. Like any industry, it is full of people who are trying to keep their jobs and feed their families. It is also full of office politics and petty squabbles. And to manage in it correctly, keeping emotions and die-hard fandom out of the equation is not a bad policy.
Situations such as Lancaster’s remind us that taking chances should never be completely ruled out. But imagine yourself as chief executive of a club – your livelihood living and dying by the scoreboard. Would you have the guts to plump for the young gun over the steady hand?
In Lancaster’s case, I see the current state of affairs as a results-driven decision. At the moment, he is getting the results – and who’s to say that his lack of tenure isn’t the driving force behind his and his team’s performances of late? As such, handing him the job before the Six Nations is over would be a bad move.
Results count, as does experience. But having to really work to secure a job? That never hurt anyone.
Management ups and downs
Sir Alex Ferguson
In case you’ve never heard of him, this chap apparently manages a team called Manchester United. They are rather well supported, and in the past few days leapfrogged their Manchester neighbours City to claim the Premiership’s top spot. Ferguson is nothing if not persistent.
After being reprimanded last month by his bosses, and following a string of three consecutive league defeats, the Liverpool gaffer this week made the unlikely claim that his team’s £300 million deal with US-based Warrior Sport was evidence of his good stewardship. Luckily for Kenny, the Reds beat Everton 3-0 at Goodison on Tuesday night, which will move this bizarre story off the back pages.