Throughout my time in football, one thing has been consistent… bullsh*t! I expect it from players and to an extent supporters on social media websites, but more often than not, the biggest bullsh*tters are the club’s chairmen.
Chairmen are an interesting bunch. Most are either supporters of the club, wannabe business men or they want to be seen as some kind of hero. I’ve worked for some utterly clueless chairmen when it comes to football, yet there have been one or two who are fantastic.
We managers expect our chairman to be consistent, available, flexible and honest. Depending on a club’s situation I would probably add patient to that list. Successful clubs are not built in days or weeks, but often up to 3 or 4 seasons. You cannot expect managers to win leagues and cups without a solid base, and that base quite often has to be built from scratch when you join a club.
We live in tough financial times, and emphasis on a clubs youth policy becomes more important, yet a lot of chairman couldn’t care less about it. They’ll let their old mate continue to run it poorly whilst only caring about first team results. I have known of one chairman who ran a clubs reserve team, and refused to listen to what the first team manager wanted. He filled the reserve team with his mates and has beens, whereas the manager wanted the reserve team to be made up of youth players, fringe first teamers and players returning from injury to gain minutes. Needless to say, that manager resigned pretty sharpish.
When things are going well, you’ll find the chairman is always about, can be seen everywhere, is in the papers, basking in the glory… but when things aren’t going so well and you need their support, more often than not it’s not there. One chairman refused to talk to me and the management team after each game during a poor run. He’d just stare at you, then get in his car and go home. I know of chairmen who hang around changing rooms demanding to know why you haven’t won. Whilst I understand that some, not all, chairman put in their own money, I think there is a time and a place to discuss things. Five minutes after the final whistle is not the time or place.
Chairmen generally like to be popular amongst supporters, and often stand with them during games, waving their scarves and singing songs. That’s great; we need to all be in touch with supporters, however in my opinion chairmen and all club staff should always be positive in public. I have worked for chairmen who love mixing with supporters, but then openly criticise the team in front of them. I hate walking into club houses or boardrooms and hearing chairmen openly saying things like “we were crap today” or “so and so was awful” or using words like pathetic, useless etc. Surely you want to give people a reason to come back the next game, not chase them away. There is nothing worse than me defending one of my players to a supporter, while ten yards away the chairman is slagging him off!
My favourite from the chairman is when we have played poorly but won. You always get told “I thought we were magnificent today, I am so proud of the team”. Yet we have had 2 shots on goal all afternoon and won 1-0 courtesy of a deflection off the centre half’s a*se. And then it’s the other way round when we lose having battered the opposition, but the ball just won’t go in. “I thought we were rubbish today.” Yet we have had 3 cleared off the line, hit the woodwork twice, their keeper has pulled off a string of cracking saves, and yet we lost to clear off side goal.
A lot of teams have a player, a centre midfielder, who just breaks up play and passes the ball 5 yards to his team mates. Chairmen never like this player and don’t understand him. This sort of player is crucial to the teams make up, he is willing to do the stuff that his team mates don’t like doing. He is happy to sit, win the ball and pass it on. He rarely sprays 25 yard passes, yet he never gives it away. Pretty much every club I have been too, the chairman tells me to should get rid of this player as he is awful. Yet this player is always in the running for player’s player of the year. He is always picked first in training should we play any sort of 5 a side.
Many chairman cut budgets half way through the season (often after they are knocked out of the FA cup or FA trophy) and then wonder why the team slide down the table. I have been at one club where the chairman ran out of money and kept lying to everyone. Rather than be honest, he kept feeding us bullsh*t why the money wasn’t there and that it was coming next week. Had he just been honest, he’d have probably found big support and respect from the dressing room. Players who have families, mortgages and bills to still pay, need to be paid.
The best chairmen are the ones who are always about, make an effort to get on with the players and treat them well. These sorts of chairmen are always welcome in the dressing room, as they are seen as part of the team. They won’t hang around the dressing room, but will come in and shake every players hand before and after games. They try and help players who are out of work, they will buy them a drink if they are at the bar, they get to know players families and provide free tickets for them, and they’ll take the team out for a meal, especially if things are tough and help re-energise the team’s belief. It is in their interest after all. They phone you every day to make sure everything’s how you want it, and see if they can help at all or just be an ear for you.
As a manager I am fully aware that I am spending someone else’s money on my team, and it is important that the players are value for money, but chairmen can have such a positive or negative influence on what is going on around them. We all want to win leagues, cups, and trophies, but believe me the best way to do it is to give managers time and support him and his players.