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Thinking of a Management Course? Some Inspiration from the Premiership …

After spending time on the shop floor excelling in your chosen niche, there comes a time when you – or your bosses – decide it’s time for a move upstairs into management.

For most of us, that’s the time when we generally look to ‘tool up’ with some up-to-date business management qualifications – and if we’re canny we’ll choose to study our business management courses online. Even in the unconventional – yet extremely results-driven – world of football you’d be hard pressed to find a manager without a formal coaching badge these days.

But what happens once you’ve got that management qualification? Do you look for advancement in your existing organisation, or is it better to pursue your management career somewhere else? With the new football season upon us, we thought it might be interesting to see if any lessons can be learned from football managers past and present …

Kenny Dalglish: Stay where you’ve earned success and make it work.

Kenny Daglish  (source:

Long, long ago Liverpool used to win league titles. Starting in 1977, in a 12-year career as a player for Liverpool, Kenny Dalglish won five First Division titles, three European Cup and two FA Cup winner’s medals.

Making that transition from star performer on the ‘shop floor’ to a successful manager for the same team is far from easy – but Dalglish certainly achieved it.

Three more First Division titles were to follow under Dalglish’s tenure – along with two further FA Cup titles. For Dalglish, the transition into management was pretty seamless – particularly as he performed the role of player-manager for three seasons. You’ll go a long way to find a better example of how to move into management.

Glenn Hoddle: Just because it worked out on the shop floor it doesn’t mean you’ll shine as a manager.

Glenn Hoddle (image source:

From a schoolboy in 1974, Glenn Hoddle spent a total of 13 years at Tottenham where he clocked up two FA Cup and one UEFA Cup winner’s medal. He could pass as well as the best in the world, tackle and score goals. In fact by the mid 80s, he was probably the most talented player in England.

Later, when Spurs were looking for someone to lead them out of one of their regular dry patches, Hoddle seemed like a natural choice.

Unfortunately, having ‘legend’ status on the shop floor isn’t necessarily enough to carry you through when you move upstairs. Football is full of rumours and gossip but what’s clear is that the players who were shown the door under Hoddle’s reign had very few positive things to say about his management style. As player Tim Sherwood put it:

No one at Tottenham would shed a single tear if Glenn Hoddle was sacked tomorrow. The dressing room is not together and there is no team spirit. He has absolutely no man-management skills.

Within two years the fans, board and most definitely the players had all had enough. The moral? A stellar reputation will only go so far once you move up to the boardroom.

Perhaps Hoddle would have benefitted in an online management course that covered Strategic Management and Leadership Skills …

Brian Clough at Leeds: Don’t try to change too much too soon.

Brian Clough (source:

Way before ‘reputation management’ was even a thing, Leeds United most definitely had an image problem. Despite regularly winning domestic and even European silverware under Don Revie in the late 60s and early 70s, it’s fair to say that this was when the ‘Dirty Leeds’ reputation really took hold.

The appointment of Brian Clough as manager in 1974 was always going to be interesting – not least because Clough was previously one of the most outspoken critics of the Leeds style of play. He wanted business as usual so far as results were concerned – but with a total transformation as to how those results were going to be achieved. Popularity was what he was looking for.

It’s fine to join an organisation with your own ideas. From the film The Damned United, here’s how not to convey those ideas at your first team meeting:

Clough’s tenure as Leeds manager lasted a mere 44 days before he was sacked by the directors. Following a course that taught him Corporate Communication Strategy might have allowed him to stay at Leeds a little longer …

Jose Mourinho: An unconventional route into management.

Jose Morinho (source:

For most footballers, it’s usually when creaky joints set in or when you take a knock too many that you start thinking seriously about management. Not all top-flight managers were players though.

Probably the best example of someone making it in management after following slightly leftfield route is Jose Mourinho. When Bobby Robson was in charge at Porto and then Barcelona, Mourinho was there as the translator. He was assistant to Louis van Gaal at Barcelona for a while before taking the helm at Benfica and then Porto.

With two Champions League titles under his belt, whatever else you might think about Mourinho, he’s definitely made his mark – and his Strategic Project Management skills and implementation have made him a truly sought after asset for any club.

It goes to show that the ‘backroom boys’ are just as capable of making it in management as the ‘show ponies’!

Who’s your football management role model? Let us know!

  • Gary Smith

    Surely SAF is worth a mention? As much for what he did at Aberdeen with relatively few resources – let alone his record at Utd?

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