Does a club affiliation really matter?

by Tony Alvarez

Monday, November 15th, 2010

By Laurie Fitzgerald

There will be a few people within football that won’t have had the best of weekends. Ray Wilkins will still be scratching his head as to how he lost his job as Chelsea assistant, while both Mark McGhee and Andy Hessenthaler will be feeling the increasing pressure on them after defeats for Aberdeen and Gillingham respectively.

Wilkins can feel rightly hard done by from the West London club’s decision to “cut costs.” During his time as assistant to both Guus Hiddink and Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea won 67, drew 15 and lost 13 from 95 games.

McGhee may have more need to feel the strain, despite the fact he is still in his position as Aberdeen manager. After the Dons lost 2-0 to Rangers at Ibrox, it left them staring at a fourth straight defeat, and just one point clear of Hamilton at the bottom of the SPL. All of this just a week after losing 9-0 at Celtic, the club’s biggest ever defeat.

Meanwhile, Hessenthaler is under similar scrutiny. Gillingham are without a win in 5 league games having lost their last three, and their 3-1 defeat at home to Crewe Alexandra left them just outside the relegation zone on goal difference. The fans are starting to grow restless, after graffiti was painted onto the club’s Priestfield stadium saying “Hess out” and “Scally out,” referring to Chairman Paul Scally.

What’s significant about these three individuals is that they are having these unfortunate times at clubs where they had distinguished playing careers with.

Wilkins was a boyhood Chelsea fan, and during his six-year playing career at Stamford Bridge, he helped get them promotion to the first division in 1977. McGhee also had a six-year career with Aberdeen, helping the Dons win two Scottish titles, three Scottish Cups and a European Cup Winners Cup. Hessenthaler spent a decade at Gillingham, helping the club gain promotion to the second tier of English football, the highest level in the club’s history.

It is sad to see men who are considered legends at their respective clubs now find themselves going through difficult times because of the clubs they love. But it does beg the question; does an affiliation with a club create potential for a manager or coach to have success there?

Having an affiliation with a club will certainly create a better understanding as to what the fans want; what the ethos of the club is. How a side should play their football, and how the club will be deemed a success.

But actually making these targets a reality is another thing altogether. Glen Hoddle certainly knew what was needed to bring success to Tottenham when he became manager, but was unable to do so. Roy Evans spent 20 years in the Liverpool backroom staff, but he was only able to bring a single League Cup to Anfield in his time in the managerial hotseat.

Of course, it is possible for a man to have an affiliation with a club and be a successful manager there. Both Kenny Dalglish and George Graham had great success at Liverpool and Arsenal respectively, but that was more down to the fact that they were good managers. Understanding the club surely played its part, but you need more than that.

You need to have the abilities to be a successful manager, instead of just knowing what the fans want and feel. For all we know, both Hessenthaler and McGhee will turn things round, while Chelsea may miss Wilkins more than what Roman Abramovich clearly thinks, but it will be down to their coaching abilities more than how they feel about the football club.

Leave a comment and let me and other football lovers know what you think.

 Please read the comments from other fans and see if you agree with their points.

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  • Andy P

    Interesting article. As a lifelong Gillingham fan I really understand how a hard working player like Hess can become a club legend; he always wore his heart on his sleeve and never gave in. As a player manager he took us to our highest league finish but one could claim that was down to an inherited squad pieced together by Tony Pulis and sustained by Peter Taylor. When he stepped down it was heart wrenching for him but he made the right call. This time however I felt that in such a hazardous position (of being relegated and losing your main scoring threat) that we could and probably would in the long term tarnish a club legends name. Whilst the younger set of fans who did not witness the full dedication that Hess offered to the club I feel the old guard are far more understanding. We are not a rich club, we are torn apart by injuries and Hess inherited a team that had no confidence away from home.

    Hess understands what the ethos of Gillingham is but what will make him a great manager in the long run is his dedication to the cause. A trait that will make him a fans favourite anywhere. It is a fantastic thing that Paul Scally seems to recognise this.

  • Tony Alvarez

    It seems to me, who obviously does not know as much about the situation as you do, that he was bound to fail. It looks as though he was put up there to be shot down.
    If this is the case it wouldnt be the first time its happened at a football club and has often ruined reputations.

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