In a week which epitomised the full turnaround in form for Celtic, there naturally were articles singing rhapsodies over how good a performance Thursday was and the how fine the overall result is, but I am taking an alternative route here. I want to talk about the management side, and how Brendan got the best out of people.
I want to talk about the massive gulf between his management of the current champions and the management at the youngest team in the SPL.
Now for many this may seem totally obvious, with the experience of one manager and the complete lack of experience of the other.
But as of late I have found it quite interesting as form changes the management style, and more importantly the man management during what would be classed as crisis points. You see, managers learn the fundamentals of tactics as they go … man management is something that is difficult to teach because each individual’s personality and outlook shapes the way they behave with others. That can’t be taught … and it can’t be untaught.
In one corner we have Celtic being led by Brendan Rodgers and his experience from the likes of Swansea, Chelsea and Liverpool, a man who has proclaimed absolute love for the club he manages and has proven time and again his man management skills are at the highest.
Like the song The Gambler, you must know when to hold them, know when to fold them, and that line has been ever evident over the summer, with the cutting the cord of Dembele, who had become a rotten apple which was threatening to seep negativity on the whole barrel.
To grasp why his handling of the Dembele situation was so significant you need to examine how he handled the situation regarding Boyata; on the surface of it, two very similar things but he knew there were difference and so he handled them in a different way.
A man like Brendan, with his intuition, his highly scrubbed man management skills, knew that Dembele was a done at Celtic; he had reached a “no turning back” point. Boyata never did. He knew one of these situations could be salvaged and that the other could not.
He showed the Frenchman the door, although no replacement could be brought in, and he turned the Boyata saga into a situation we are all still in awe of.
The Belgian is a player who is as solid as a brick house at the back now that he’s cut out his mistakes and he may not have totally won the love of the fans, but I think we can agree he has earned some of our respect for doing his talking on the pitch now.
And the way he dealt with those situations are just two of the examples of the management skills of Brendan Rodgers, a man who has been in the game a long time and who has dealt with both youth players and season professionals.
And then you look at the young, inexperienced manager at the helm at Sevco.
Yes, he was a Liverpool legend, a man who went to Champions League final and took the trophy home; some say he won that game single handed; whether you agree or not, as a player he was one of the greats in the midfield and he will always have that.
But as a manager, he is already under pressure.
The media says he has some relative success compared to his predecessors, but to be fair that wasn’t much to be compared to, a bit like comparing a new babysitter to Myra Hindley. He has won half his games. Having signed 15 players he has not moved the club significantly forward.
The crux of the matter is what is said and how he manages the players. If you listen to interviews of both managers, and the way they carry themselves, it is polar opposite, and that you can see the reaction from the players after a bad result speaks volumes.
On one hand during Celtics “crisis” – at least according to the media – Brendan never once slated the players. He saw where there was weakness, but never put full blame on the team. It is impossible to imagine him going in front of the press and lacerating his players in a manner that generates headlines. Part of this is knowing the players, of course, but even in the aftermath of Gibraltar, certainly his worst result, there was never any talk of ripping it up all up and starting again.
He knew what the team had to offer, even after one game, and he knew our time would come with the talent we had. It was all about taking his time.
Now in the case of Gerrard, everything is different. He seems to start any press conference after a loss by taking full blame for the result and then following that up by absolutely slating his own team and even coming to the point where he has said it’s nothing to him to just open the revolving door and get rid of the whole squad.
Talk about knocking the confidence of your own players.
Look at how he treated Sadiq, his one fit striker, in the run up to and then aftermath of the cup semi final; instead of encouragement, he whined on how unsatisfactory it was. In the aftermath of the game the press was filled with story about the club cancelling the deal.
This is a guy who has less game time than Scott Allen has for Celtic.
Fast forward to Thursday night, where once again his first answer was to say he takes responsibility for the way the defence was set up, but swiftly followed that with his statement that 13 and 14 year olds know how to clear the ball with both feet, making an obvious dig at his own players which threw them under the bus and totally made a mockery of his first comment about taking responsibility for the performance and result.
To me, this is simply showing one clear and present fact; it’s not just the managers and their respective abilities in the dugout. It is not even about the class of player each manager has. It is about how to get the best out of players. That takes place on the training ground and in the dressing room, and in the general approach to them in their lives.
With Boyata, a player who was being touted for the exit and who seemed halfway out the door, the manager showed full belief in him. At the so-called crisis point, Brendan refused to be overly critical; he kept faith with the team and knew it was strong enough and not just to win the title. We are now favourites to complete the Treble Treble and playing some of the best football since the manager had the team rolling in the Invincible campaign.
Gerrard, I think, has suffered from having so much smoke blown up his behind he actually started to believe he had a team that could compete with the current champions. Part of it is the media’s fault for promoting that idea. Part of it is his own for believing it.
But Brendan can make the players believe in his vision, and in their own ability. Because he tells them over and over again how good they are. I don’t know what Gerrard thinks can be accomplished by telling his players they aren’t.
Brendan sits with the responsibility of the team on his shoulders, in a position of strength, whereas Gerrard is looking into the abyss with the players he has, but who’s he already announced he will most likely be looking to change after just six months … and he will keep on doing this until the money runs out. Or until they sack him.
The way things are going, one or the other – or both – will happen before the season ends.
Ross McAtasney is a Celtic fan and blogger from Glasgow. He is an admin on The CelticBlog Facebook page. This is his debut article on the site.
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