“If you want an easy week, then expect a hard weekend. If you want an easy weekend, then prepare for a hard week.” –-Arsene Wenger, on the intricacies of managing both the playing personnel and training programmes, during the week, to win a weekend match.
“An internal voice would always ask, ‘When’s he going to leave, how long will he last?’ Experience taught me to stockpile young players in important positions.” — Alex Ferguson on his policy of early replacement which helped in making him a very successful Manchester United coach.
The above quotes from two of the world football's biggest coaches were tapped, to set the tone for new lessons that Nigerians need to learn: about appreciating the concept of coaching and managing a team with the attendant brainwaves that even the most successful coaches in football grapple with while striving to hone winning teams.
Super Eagles coach, Sunday Oliseh, received so much stick, unfairly, from some Nigerians on the other side of the divide who posited he was to blame for 'humiliating' Enyeama with a hasty appointment of Ahmed Musa as the new substantive captain of Nigeria. Oliseh was vilified as lacking man management skills necessary for handling a big football team such as the Super Eagles. How wrong that bandwagon solidarity was.
On the contrary, Oliseh did not set out to humiliate Enyeama with an appointment of a new captain. He was acting on a brainwave, to give his team a new positive direction which he considered the best move for him and the team at that time.
But Oliseh did not ring that change on impulse. He told the media that twice, he had Enyeama the captain, on a private meeting and telephone conversation but the goalie impressed it on the new coach, that he was already set on his way to international retirement.
My research showed that the successful football coaches world over want both their employers' and fans' support when they come up with brainwaves and impulsive decisions, in trying to make their team great. And you will be shocked to hear about some of the craziest brainwaves of some world renowned coaches, past and present. Some failed, and some succeeded, with their seemingly absurd methods at different times, but they are still the celebrated coaches today.
What about the flip side of having long-serving Enyeama stripped of the Super Eagles captaincy? Only time will prove whether or not it's a failure. Only time will prove that Ahmed Musa lacked the inspiration to lead the Eagles in the new era, or that he was able to transform the ego of being the captain into an inspiration for self improvement, all-round, for the betterment of the national team and his career.
Oliseh may be no where in sights from the accomplishments of Arsene Wenger and Ferguson, but the way and manner he has started as the Super Eagles coach are in consonance with these two heavyweights' mantras as reflected in their quotes above. Oliseh is striving hard, with difficult decisions, trying to hone a strong Super Eagles team with his own football philosophy. And he is trying to prepare for the 'rainy days', by 'stockpiling young players in the important positions'.
Those who claimed that Oliseh lacked man management skills were wrong. It was an unfounded claim against a coach who holds an UEFA Pro Licence. Holders of this qualification are certified experts in football team leadership and management skills, as well as media relationships. In other words, the UEFA Pro Licence training is all about human management in football coaching. The holders of this licence had since learned the basics and the advanced coaching methods and strategies from their earlier qualifications: UEFA A Licence; UEFA B Licence; Level 2 Licence and Level 1 Licence.
I sense that the last has not been heard of Sunday Oliseh's brainwaves as Super Eagles coach. Nigerians should brace themselves for more corkers, the conventional methods and the sheer brainwaves from this well-read young tactician who is full of ambition, to make a huge impact with all the knowledge stockpiled from football coaching classes and technical study consults.
In applying their man management skills, successful football coaches around the world have scorched red trails, virtually going beyond known barriers, to get the best out of their teams. Examples abound in football history.
Pep Guardiola – Interestingly, Sunday Oliseh's self-confessed coaching idol, is a prime example of a brave tactician. He has once confessed to taking decisions that surprised even himself.
Pep honed a fantastic Bayern Munich side last year. Bayern became Bundesliga champions and reached the Champions League semi-final. Then as they got set to host Real Madrid at home, he came up with another brainwave. Pep allowed his players to choose and play their own favourite formation. The players settled for an unfamiliar 4-2-4 and lost 4-0 at home.
Pep recounted regretfully: “I spent the whole season refusing to use a 4-2-4. And I decide to do it tonight, the most important night of the year. A complete f*** up.”
That infamous howler did not transform Pep Guardiola into a bad coach overnight at Bayern. He is still there living his dream.
In fact, it was with such pragmatic methods, which Pep kept close to his heart, that he hogged the headlines as a successful Barcelona coach. But things were falling apart at the Camp Nou just before he took a sabbatical, prelude to taking up fresh challenges at Bayern Munich.
Pep knew why it didn't act up for him at the twilight of his Barça career: "What happened is not that I failed to motivate them. No, I failed to seduce them," he said of a failed brainwave.
A management stunt that failed Guardiola in a 2014 Champions League semi-final had made Carlo Ancelotti a FA Cup hero at Chelsea four years earlier.
Ancelotti picked his team to face Portsmouth in the 2010 English FA Cup final, then went gaga. He mandated his players to determine the "strategy" that would confound Portsmouth. The players did and Chelsea won 1-0. Ancelotti made history, because that FA Cup win added on to Chelsea's League title win, thus bagging The Blue's first double feat.
“I was sure the players followed the strategy, because they made the strategy," Ancelotti said of his pragmatism. "Sometimes I make the strategy but you don’t know if the players really understand the strategy. Sometimes I joke with the players, ‘Did you understand the strategy?’ ‘Yes, yes!’ ‘Repeat, please!’”
Sheer stunts in team management decisions are part and parcel of a brave coach's career. The list is virtually endless. How about the stunts that Guus Hiddink pulled with the talismanic Romario at PSV Eindhoven?
Hiddink had Romario as a sacred talisman when he managed PSV of Holland in the '90s. History documented how he used the stubborn but talented Brazilian effectively to win matches. While Romario stayed out partying, other players sweated in out in training. Hiddink somehow was armed with "scripts" with which he convinced everyone that he was fine with Romario. This order continued as the player continued turning in heroic performances.
Don't expect Sunday Oliseh to try out Hiddink's kind of a management stunt in the Super Eagles. Perhaps only coaches with the Romarios, the Messis, the Ronaldos, et al, could be tempted to emulate Hiddink in the modern day football team management, and of course risk rocking the entire team.
If the Hiddink example shocked you, the the style of one-time clownish but respected Brain Clough of English football, will make you laugh off what was never a joke.
As manager of Nottingham Forest in those days, Clough motivated his players and got the needed results with weird methods.
In fact. Cloughie, as he was fondly addressed, preferred making his players 'relaxed' rather than 'motivated' before matches. He would serve them beers inside the bus, on the way to the stadium. And he would tell the players just before they hit the tunnel to enter the pitch from the dressing-room: “Go out there and enjoy yourselves.”
May the Brain Clough bug never infest Super Eagles camp. It sounded like a fairytale, but it happened and history books documented it.
The foregoing examples, whether weird or classic conventional practices, all show that coaches are hired and licenced to call the shots. They are fully responsible for the decisions, strategies and actions they implement while striving to hone a strong team, aiming to achieve set objectives agreed with their employers.
A coach who fails to achieve goals and more goals gets fired. And another takes over. That's the reason for the global coaches' clamour for liberty and support in managing their teams.
Oliseh should ride on, with total support of the NFF and all Nigerians.