Premiership Postures

This report was created by Martin Perry, exclusively for the London Times. The aim of this special Sports Psychology report is to give insight into the body language and psychology of the Premiership managers

It is obvious that the job of a Premiership manager is stressful; we dont need the evidence of Houlliers heart attack to convince us of that.

Every time they lead their teams to the white line they are under the spotlight of the television cameras; they have to learn how to deal with that glare; it heightens emotions and bleaches out uncertainty in the viewers eyes.

Can we judge a team by the touchline behaviour of the coach/manager? Well, it might be as close as we get to understanding these very public figures. Through their gestures do we know them.

Arsene Wenger – Arsenal

His calm equanimity projects an aura of civility and invincibility onto his team. Even when there is an on-field event which provokes a response it is almost invariably a dismissive/derisive shrug which communicates unconcern and convinces his team that they are on track.

By putting distance between himself and the pitch/players he hands control to them. His detachment emanates from supreme preparation. He knows all is in place. His searching eye offers perception. He angles forward to create engagement and radiate positive values to his team.

He recognises that much of the game is played in the head. Mostly his.

Sir Alex Ferguson -Manchester United

The proprietor of the games high standards. Never taking notes, his high concentration levels suggest he stores the games detail in his intensely focused mind. He stands throughout a match, designed to make clear that incompetence, lowering of standards, or not playing for the good of the team would be granted no quarter. A man who has earned the respect of the game by giving the game respect.

Gerard Houllier – Liverpool

A courageous and loyal man who understands with a profound intensity, and feels the weight of, the clubs history. He radiates a quiet belief, but can he live with the burden of expectancy from which he tries to protect his team?

Since his illness, he seems to have lost some of the lust which gave him lustre. Now, he is often content to sit in the dugout, a wry smile playing across his lips, as if he has taken Shanklys old mantra and reworked it. Now, to him, footballs not a matter of life and death, its less important that that. Yet.

Gordon Strachan – Southampton
An astute man who understands the needs of players and the context of football in the modern world. Thus doesnt clutter his players with too much information. On the touchline he is forever urging his team on but not in a manner which inhibits them. He is one of his people and at one with them. Strachan seems to trust his players and they respond to this trust. Enjoy your football boys.

David Moyes – Everton

A deeply involved student of the game who looks like a lead character from Band of Brothers and seems to plan his match campaigns like a general. He projects strength and seems to suggest to the players, Put your faith in me and I will lead you. He can be excitable, but usually with cause.The cause.

Sir Bobby Robson – Newcastle United

Leaning resignedly on the dug-out roof, history and passion etched on every wrinkle. Having travelled widely he has come home, but his demeanour betrays a man often frustrated, as if searching for the football moment of pure joy and liberation, when the heavens open and the gods of football shine down upon St. James Park. Dont, he sometimes wonders, the players want the same?

Steve Bruce – Birmingham City
Occupying the technical area radiating the will and belief that will try to ensure Birminghams survival. Bruces presence tells his players he is there for them, as they try to play above themselves. Notice him swaying from side to side shifting uneasily as he tries to cope with the pressure he never felt as a player.

Sam Allardyce – Bolton Wanderers
While Big Sam affects the appearance and demeanour of a rough diamond his approach to the game is quite finely honed. Watch him in the stands, seemingly relaxed, but observing every nuance of the game, ready to introduce plans B to G if A isnt working. He continues to make much of little.

He lives every moment of the struggle and when the pressure has built up in him, he comes downstairs to let off steam and let the lads know he is there with them.

Jean Tigana – Fulham
He understands and is sensitive to the subtleties and flow of the game. His vision is pure but is corrupted by the hectic rush of the Premiership. He tries to suck it up, chewing on his toothpick, but sometimes the frustration is containable no longer and he seems to implode almost, as if he knows he can do it better himself, but is prevented from doing so by times vicissitudes.

Terry Venables – Leeds United
His face sketched with his knowledge of the game, his desire for success still lurks behind tired eyes and his jovial manner speaks of experience well learned. Huddled against the elements on the touchline, he is a CD Rom of tactics and plans. Maybe he will need to make his players computer literate to succeed.

Kevin Keegan – Manchester City

Keegan, despite finding England too much for him, has retained his attacking principles and transmitted his enthusiasm to Man City. He positively glows when City are on song but his face is clouded in misery and he turns away when they are down. His feelings are empathetic to the games myriad mood swings.

Glenn Hoddle – Tottenham Hotspur
Pen in hand or phone to ear, Glen is captivated. His hand gestures convey the game in its infinite variety. He surrounds himself by players who will appreciate the finesse of his footballing philosophy. But, ever contemplative, Hoddle can seem rapt, in distant gaze. Thinking, dreaming? Remembering?

Claudio Ranieri – Chelsea
After being with his team during the warm up a trait he shares with David Moyes he withdraws to the touchline, folds his arms and settles in to watch his tactics played out. Like so many thoughtful coaches, his team is built to adapt to the demands of the opposition, the conditions and the occasion. He is there to guide, to tinker but not, oddly, to interfere.

Emotionally he keeps his distance. Behind those glasses, his eyes reveal little, but the occasional shrug or hand gesture contain a whole chapter from his coaching manual. He cares.

Alan Curbishley – Charlton Athletic
Fists clenched with insistence, Curbishley wont tolerate deviation from the simple virtues. Keep the form and shape lads. He communicates his passion through a slightly world weary expressive face. Touted as the best young manager around his youth is being drained from him because of the energy that he is asked to generate to maintain Charltons stability.

Graham Taylor – Aston Villa
Having once been at the top of the managerial heap, we now see Graham in winter coat and scarf settling into his new home, the Villa dug out. He inhales the intoxicating air as if it is vintage claret. Not for Taylor the modernisers penchant for note-taking. Long ago he assimilated the values he wants his players to absorb. He looks quizzical.

Steve McClaren – Middlesborough

A cool and steady, water-sipping pitchside presence with notebook at the ready, and emotions kept in check. McClaren is the teams tutor, measuring how effectively they are implementing the previous weeks preparations. From coaching background to managerial foreground, the transition has been made without noticeable change in demeanour.

Howard Wilkinson – Sunderland
Howard Wilkinson has long been burdened with the soubriquet Sergeant Wilko, much to his chagrin. In fact, while it is true that teams are made in his own image he is a well-educated coach whose thoroughness is manifested pitch side. With his copious note taking and the flexible tactics he employs which always take due cognisance of opponents strengths. He seems at ease with the challenges which confront him.

Graham Souness – Blackburn Rovers

Souness often finds himself as the champion of his team, like the knights of old, he leaps in to defend their honour. The fight against injustice is never ending, for the gladiator. When pride is on the line you can be sure Souness will be at your side, burning with fire and an iron will. My name is Graham Souness, I will have my vengeance in this life or the next!

Gary Megson – West Bromwich Albion
Of course they all care. But they dont all publicly live every moment like Gary Megson. He is the mentor, providing the fear and the fuel that stokes the teams high energy running machine. He needs to keep reminding them that he is there, watching and cajoling. In effective he is their twelfth player.

Glenn Roeder – West Ham United

A good reader of the game who sees what should be happening a few steps ahead. Contains the intense pressure as he doesnt want to let the stress get to the players. He maintains his dignity on the touchline and in interviews, but his self-conscious motivational gestures to the boys sometimes seem more forced than natural.

Posted in Football Psychology, Sports Psychology Blog.