Ange’s recent interview with the On The Ball guys was yet another brilliant insight into the man who sits at the helm of the club. He comes across brilliantly in these things and his passion for, and understanding of, the game is obvious in every word.
The things he cares about outside of football are equally apparent; this is a man who places a high premium on family and friends. He is definitely the kind of guy you want to go and have a beer with, and you get the impression he’d be happy to do it.
Unless you were one of the Celtic players under him, that is.
A lot of people I’ve spoken to were surprised when Ange admitted that he keeps a respectful distance from his players and tries not to get to know them on a more personal level. This seems at odds with the man we see in front of us at times.
But actually, it’s one of the tools which makes him effective.
It’s one of the things that makes him such a gifted manager and leader and he is quite correct to do things in this manner. It might have been one of the biggest issues with the man who last sat in that chair.
A manager should have that distance between himself and his players, because as Ange said “a manager has to make decisions” and those decisions will not always be what people want to hear.
One of the best examples of this is on the superb documentary I Believe In Miracles, about Brian Clough’s time at Notts Forest, where some of the players who thought they had that kind of “we’re all mates” relationship with the manager had that dashed.
Some of them are still bitter about it to this day.
That documentary has finally made it onto Netflix where it should be seen by everyone who loves football. It is a great story about how Clough and Taylor were able to take a band of players who might otherwise not have amounted to much and forged them into a seriously strong unit, one which went on to win two Champions Cups.
And there are insights in there about the way great managers behave towards their players, and how part of their strength comes from their unfailing support for them in public whilst reminding them of who is in charge in private.
It’s a neat trick. It’s very powerful.
Ange knows all this. He may not have the fine details of what other managers do imprinted on the inside of his head but he understands the philosophy behind it.
In any walk of life, the person at the top of the tree should maintain that distance between themselves and those they manage, because not to is to invite disaster from so many different fronts.
Imagine you have to tell your best mate and drinking buddy that the company is letting him go, or you have to tell a player you have dinner with once a week that he’s the one getting dropped for a cup final?
Something breaks in that relationship forevermore, if indeed you are even capable of setting aside personal feelings to make those decisions at all.
One of the criticisms of Lennon was that he obviously had “favourites.”
No manager should ever have favourites.
The very fact of having favourites disadvantages other members of the team, because no matter how hard they work they won’t be treated the same.
We have a good man at the helm here, but people would be mad to mistake him for a “soft touch” or a “nice guy.”
Deep down, he’s a ruthless pragmatist who will do what he thinks is best for the team and not just one or two individuals in it.
Which isn’t to say he’s not liked and respected by our dressing room; it’s pretty clear that the players do enjoy training under him and have gotten full on board with his plans.
But they never forget who is in charge. They never forget who’s boss.