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10

History, so often a great teacher, sometimes

sends mixed messages. For instance, at

Leeds United, Don Revie created a culture

that had family at its very heart. To him and

his players, it was them against the world.

'The Don' was in every sense the head of

the family and, in true Corleone style, he

looked after their every want and need.

They, in return, repaid him in bucketfuls

with their performances and loyalty.

However, there can be a problem with

top-down structures such as this; very

often, when the head of the family dies, the

family’s structure and unity dies with him,

leaving little on which to build a new future.

Don was truly bigger than the club he had

built and, when he left in 1975, he took the

magic with him. It heralded the beginning

of a slow thaw, which eventually became a

meltdown that lasted until the late 1980s.

This season saw one of the biggest shifts in management

for a long time. Many of the most successful clubs in

European competition now have a new man at the helm.

Howard Wilkinson

assesses the likely impact of the changes.

BIG ChANGe, lIttle IMPACt

COLuMN | HOWARD WILKINSON, LMA CHAIRMAN

Unlike in business, however, this rarely

goes as smoothly as they would like. The

histories of Leeds United and Liverpool

teach us one huge lesson - change, when

mismanaged, can bring disaster.

Don and Bill shared a desire to have total

control of almost all areas of their clubs,

including those unrelated to their teams.

Today, as manager tenures decrease, such

control would be impossible, but control of

all areas relating to the team is an absolute

must. Of the six clubs under discussion,

perhaps only Manchester United can be said

to have outwardly maintained large portions

of the old traditional model, the same

manager for 26 years with an influence on

the club far beyond those who have recently

taken the helm at Chelsea, Bayern Munich,

Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Of the new incumbents in the hot seats,

it is David Moyes who perhaps has the

biggest challenge. He has stepped into a

great club with a long-standing culture that

is embedded in its people and this is the

glue that held relationships together. David

has to rebuild those relationships in his

mould, which will take time.

The recent changes at these clubs are

unlikely to present major opportunities

to would-be contenders. The seemingly

relentless trend towards the growth of a

fairly small group of European super-clubs

will continue. In England, so long as the big

clubs remain stable in the boardroom and

maintain their desire and ambition to drive

their businesses forward, we will continue to

move slowly and inevitably towards an elite

league within the Barclays Premier League.

Meanwhile Liverpool, Leeds United’s

great rivals, continued to enjoy a golden

period after the departure of the late and

great Bill Shankly in 1974. Shankly had

developed a culture centred around the

feeling of privilege and pride at representing

the club and its fans. As a result, everyone

at the club, at all levels, was similarly

committed and actively contributed to the

management team.

After Shankly's shock departure,

however, events proved that the club was

bigger than the man. After Bill left, those

remaining - Bob Paisley, Joe Fagan and

Kenny Dalglish - simply shuffled along the

bench and sat in his seat.

The history of these two clubs would

indicate that the consequences of change

on great clubs such as these will always be

different and that difference will be much

influenced by legacy.

These days, while the manager is often

portrayed as the ruler of all he surveys, the

reality is different. The big clubs are huge

commercial enterprises, each with their own

philosophy, vision and strategy. Critically,

they recognise that success on the field is the

beating heart of the business and that they

must grow an infrastructure that supports and

is aligned to the club’s aims for that success.

They are also acutely aware of the

direct correlation between results, salaries

and the ability to realistically compete

in the transfer market. Managers can

produce the extraordinary, but miracles

are increasingly rare.

Clubs of this magnitude will also be very

conscious of realistic succession planning.

“These days, The big clubs are huge

commercial enTerprises, each wiTh Their

own philosophy, vision and sTraTegy”

Don Revie created a family culture at Leeds united.