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Resurrection of the Super Manager: Sunderland as an Example

Over the last decade the continental way of managing clubs in the form of having a football director, a transfer committee, and a head coach who has to utilize whatever squads are put under his disposal has caught up with a lot of the English premiere league and the championship clubs. It usually entails a combination of executives with varying degrees of football knowledge making decisions on buying and selling players. This has more often than not proved to be unsuccessful with the glorious examples of failure being Aston Villa, Newcastle (prior to handing the reins to Benitez), Liverpool (before Klopp) and Sunderland prior to big Sam. Sunderland would be a prime example, De Canio clearly stated that a lot of the players that were signed during the summer preceding his ill-fated short spell in August and September of 2013 were not chosen by him, and although that should be taken with a pinch of salt considering all the talk of the De Canio revolution during that transfer window, it is not implausible considering the noises made by his successor.

During his final days, a clearly disgruntled Gus Poyet made it clear that he is but a head-coach not a manager, saying that he shouldn’t be called a manager when it suits the club and just a head coach when it comes to decision making alluding to player signings. Dick Advocaat quit after conceding that the squad assembled by the club “was not good enough”, as it became clear that he provided the club with profiles and positions of players to recruit rather than getting involved in nitty gritty of transfers, perhaps in keeping with what he was accustomed to elsewhere in the continent despite serving as Rangers’ manager for a while. Then in came Allardyce and despite attempting to organize the players and tighten the defence and impose his style of play, people tend to forget that he made a few signings that he chose  and those played an integral role in the results picking up after the January transfer window.

Allardyce is succeeded David Moyes who one could assume would run things the way he did at Everton. A manager not a head coach, where he scouted players and identified targets and even got involved in transfers. He and Allardyce belong to a school of thought typified by the likes of Wenger and Ferguson. The latter used to say that the manager is the most important person at the club, and Wenger famously controls everything at the club, from the academies, to the scouting networks, to identifying transfers and negotiating with clubs and agents. This genre of managers were starting to be thought of as dinosaurs, but then with the epic failures in many a club with directors of football, and transfer committees, and everybody else who thinks that winning Fifa video games makes them good football club executives, the tide is turning. Sunderland appointed Sam and Moyes, Newcastle who initially identified McLaren as somebody who is willing to work within their framework, and their ingenious plan of spotting unearthed talents in European leagues, promoting them and then selling them, finally understood that the Premiership is not that sort of game and appointed Benitez in a Wenger like role when they realized that money now comes from surviving in the premier league first and foremost not from selling your best players.

Liverpool who managed to lure Brendan Rogers with the charm of the “big club” tag, convincing him to accept what the transfer committee decides after what was deemed inadequate investment by Kenny Daglish, eventually brought in Klopp and trusted him with far more control. That said, not all clubs are following suit. Francesco Guidolin blatantly stated when he signed his two year contract at the end of last season that the final word about signing players would not be his, however one thing is for sure, he and only him will pay with his job for any shortcomings of the players brought in and not those who actually signed them. Whatever happens though the super manger is no more a dying bread.

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