Chapter 3:- Personal Responsibility
Let me begin by stating that I emphatically don’t consider myself to be all seeing and all knowing, and that I emphatically don’t think that I never make mistakes. I live to learn, because the more I know, and the more powerful and the more influential I become. I lead a life long quest of listening and observing, just as you must do if you want to be reach your goals.
This is how you must use my web site. What you like you use, and want you don’t you simply discard and forget. You may be able to build on my thoughts and ideas, or you may find that my thoughts and ideas spark you off on a train of thought that’ll develop into something unique for you.
Everyone makes mistakes, of course they do. But the fact of the matter is that there're some mistakes that are made that are the result of a lack of understanding, and there're some that are made as the result of bad preparation.
So let’s take Gareth Southgate as the prime example. I’m not here to bury the guy because any player would jump whole heartedly at the chance of going straight from playing to managing, especially at a club as big as Middlesbrough Football Club. But at the end of the day I do have to use examples in order to make my points, and for the moment he’s it. I’d also like to make it clear that these articles aren’t intended to be unprofessional, they’re not intended to be personal, and they’re not intended to rubbish people who try to do their very best, each and every day. I’m not a writer by trade and so there may well be times when I come across in a manner that I genuinely don’t wish to do so.
Gareth has no managerial experience, he has no qualifications that are of any use to him, but most importantly of all, he has no, " World Vision. " Put simply, this means that all he’s got to go on is the things that he’s seen on his travels from club to club as a player, and unfortunately, in his case this ads up to very little. We’ve got to be brutally honest here. The Premiership, as good as people rightly rate the quality of the, “ Game “, the actual quality of the, “ Football “ in general lags way behind that of the French, Spanish and Italian leagues. Take out the usual contenders in the title race and you’re left with very little in the way of actual, “ Footballing “ quality. That’s not to say that there’s no excitement. Not at all. The, “ Game “ in the Premiership is often blistering end to end stuff full of fire and passion, but in the end, fire and passion can only take you so far.
Kevin Keegan's title contending Newcastle team sums it all up for me. Personally, I think that he was a bit out of his depth at Newcastle, as the weight of expectation up there is truly massive, and then way out of his depth at England. Why ? Simple. Because in the end, fire and passion can only take you so far. I think that the Newcastle job came too soon for Keegan. It was his first post in management and I just don’t think he had the experience to deal with such a huge club, nor the ability to handle the immense expectations and pressure of a fan base that demanded both great football, and trophies won in that manner. In the end, I think that he cracked under the strain of all of this, and this is why Newcastle gave away a 12 point lead and eventually lost the title to Manchester United. I think that he cracked in the same way at England, only a lot sooner because the pressures and expectations were amplified even more.
That said, it’s generally accepted throughout the land that the, “ Game “ played at Newcastle during the Keegan years was a real joy to behold, and the Newcastle fans rightly hold him in extremely high esteem, as he truly gave them value for money, and was a real character who lived football and wore his heart on his sleeve. Unlike Mr McClaren, who gave the Boro fans probably the worst, “ Game “ ever in living memory. My full respect and total admiration goes to that guy who threw his season ticket in McClaren’s face, as he knows, “ Football “.
I absolutely love people like Keegan, I truly do. I hope with all my heart that in these wilderness years he’s sought and found the education he needs so that he comes back and re ignites that fight with Ferguson, which had all football fans riveted to their seats – Fantastic ! Believe me, If and when he does so he’ll be a real force to be reckoned with as the combination of fire, passion and knowledge is a truly awesome power.
For me, the Newcastle job, along with the Liverpool job, is the hardest in the Premiership, as the fans are insanely passionate and emotional about their football. But equally, I think that whoever gets it right at these clubs goes down in history and forever enters into their legend. Newcastle and Liverpool remind me of a lot of Napoli in Italy where football is the religion, and football is life, just as it is at at these clubs.
What Boro fans wouldn’t give for a complete manager like that. No disrespect to Gareth, but Steve Gibson, the Chairman of Middlesbrough Football Club may have made the biggest mistake of his life letting Martin O’Neil slip through his fingers. But we’ll get onto that in a moment.
Getting back to the quality of the, “ Football “ in the Premiership. The proof of the pudding is in the eating they say, so let’s look at the proof and see just how many World Cups and European Championships England have actually won. 1, and every single time the World Cup comes around we have to endure the usual and endless re runs of this one and only victory in ’66. Thankfully, I watched the World Cup in Italy and was spared this.
Herein lies the problem for Gareth, and herein lies the problem especially for Gareth. Gareth was a good player, a good captain and the consummate professional, of that there can be absolutely no doubt. He had a career that the majority can only ever dream of. But the fact of the matter is that Gareth played most of his football in a league that’s still way, way behind the very best in terms of training methodology and all that goes into the preparation of footballers, both mental as well as physical. In his day it was even worse than this, and this is where he picked up what he now has to rely on.
Even today, the pie, pea, and pint, “ Mentality “ still prevails throughout every single English league. Teams don’t stop off for fish and chips and a few pints pints on the way home in any league in France, Spain, or Italy that’s for sure. Sadly, over here it’s part of the culture, and the result's the same as it is in endless other sports in the UK, namely, under achievement throughout. Let's take UK Tennis, Cricket, Athletics, Swimming, and the England football team as prime examples where the result's always the same. A few blips of excellence along the way, but never any real, and prolonged success.
This link says everything to me about the mentality and politics associated with sport in the UK, and it takes me straight back to part of an earlier article, of which this is a small section just to refresh your memory and to help illustrate my points:
To achieve this I always adopt the same approach that ensured that Ferrari absolutely dominated every single aspect of formula 1 in recent years, winning 6 consecutive constructors titles, and 5 consecutive drivers titles. Ferrari's success lay in their never ending quest for higher and higher levels of performance through continuous self analysis at every level, right the way up to the big chief, Mr Montezzemolo himself.
In essence, the question that's always at the very forefront of absolutely anything and everything I do on a daily basis as a sports coach, is, how can I improve, what more can I do ?
During those years of absolute domination, Ferrari continuously took apart every single piece of the car and they'd simply not rest until they found an improvement, no matter how minutely small it was. Then, when they put it back together, all those minutely small improvements all came together as one to make the winning difference.
Now, where were we?
Ahh, but what about the good old days, when we did have long periods of world domination, I hear you cry ?
" Milan Lab is the High Tech Scientific Research Centre set up by AC Milan with strong motivation, operating since July 2002. The club’s purpose is to optimise the psycho-physical management of the athletes by entrusting this task to MilanLab which represents the ideal combination of science, technology, IT, cybernetics and psychology. "
All true. But in the good old days football was king, whereas today cash and the internet are king. The terraces were always full because there was sweet fa better for the terminally skint working class man to do. In the good old days life for everyone was hard, very hard. Hardship today is when you don’t have a mobile phone, because now everyone eats and everyone eats real good. In the good old days the option for people like my old friend Wilf Manion, was to either go work down the pit, or to escape and play football. In the good old days football was in its infancy, whereas today it's evolved into an exact science. Tactics aside, today there’s a very precise scientifically proven way of training footballers so that they’re at their very peak as often as is humanly possible. Clubs like AC Milan even have their own specially made lab, “ Milan Lab “, where every single player is analysed in every single way known to science. At Milan, absolutely nothing’s left to chance, absolutely nothing. Unlike here at the Boro where they’re still stuck in the Fred Flintstone era.
Ahh, but we’re only a small town in Europe, I hear you cry ? We can't possibly compete with giants like AC Milan. Hmmm. Is that right ? So who should you be looking to compete with ? Is this club just happy existing and standing still ? Do you want to wait another 128 years for a trophy ? So, how much has this so called, “ Small “ town spent in transfer fees and players wages over the last 5, 6, or 10 years ? The fact of the matter is that a lot of the money was blown buying players that this club was not yet ready to train, or deal with. The foundation stones upon which long term and enduring success are built weren’t built, and so what remains now is what has always been the case with this club, namely, perennial highs and lows with no stability of any kind what so ever.
I'm not for one moment saying that you can compete with financial giants like AC Milan on the field, but I am saying that you can learn from them, and then you emulate them off the field in the best way you can with what you can afford, and that's the point. Milan Lab was opened in 2002. How long will it take for someone at this club to actually go and see what they've done ? In this country there are scouts for players, but where are the scouts for coaching excellence, technologies and innovation ?
This is how I define, " World Vision. "
Had I been in charge at this club, instead of Mr McClaren, I’d have used the 8.1 million pounds I’d in the kitty, and instead of buying Massimo Maccarone and having to pay all of his wages as well for 5 years, I would’ve bought a viable alternative instead, and with the rest of the money I'd have built, “ Boro Lab “. I would’ve then gathered a team of, " Real " experts from all four corners of the world, AND THEN I would’ve bought Maccarone and the like, AND THEN you would’ve seen what a truly great player HE IS.
This is how I'd apply, " World Vision. "
No. No. No my friend. Middlesbrough Football Club is a BIG, “ CLUB “ IN EUROPE, with a SMALL, “ TOWN “ MENTALITY, and THAT’S THE PROBLEM.
With THIS chairman…,
With THIS stadium….,
With THESE facilities…,
With THESE fans…,
With PROPER, WORLD CLASS EXPERTS running it…,
With all of these things, and without this small, “ Town “ mentality, this club WILL BE a success. It’s that simple.
The UK has an army of absolutely dedicated coach’s and groups that perennially give of themselves to the kids without a moments thought of fame and fortune for themselves. They give, and give, and give, and simply wouldn’t be able to give anymore even if they tried. They’re truly amazing, but they simply lack the knowledge. Give it to them. Give it to them through the national lottery and I promise you with all my heart that in 20 years the UK will end up just like Australia, because that’s exactly what they did.
Who’d ever have thought that Australia would dominate so many sports 20 years ago ? Maybe one or two proud Aussies and that’s about it. We used to laugh at them, but now we just scratch our collective heads and undertake yet another enquiry into our latest sporting failure ( The Ashes ).
Let’s take English cricket as a good example of the current state of Middlesbrough Football Club. Cricket in this country needs to do exactly what Gareth needs to do here at the Boro. He needs to get rid of all the friends of friends he inherited from Mr McClaren, he needs to get on the phone and he needs to bring back the people who’ve been there, done that, and have the trophies to prove it.
How can you pay 8.1 million pounds, and give 40 odd grand a week to Massimo Maccarone and then have him trained by people who are frankly learning as they go, or are just no longer up to the standard required in order to keep things moving forwards in a positive way until the desired goals are reached ? It simply defies logic and it’s simply beyond belief.
Would Steve Gibson put a total unknown with no experience of management, and no qualifications of any kind in charge of his multi million pound haulage company ?
No. You can bet your life that he wouldn’t.
So why does he do it with his multi million pound football club ?
When you look in depth at the, " Who's Who " section of the Official MFC website you’ll see that the line up that comprises the key positions of the backroom coaching staff is made up of people who’ve only ever coached in the UK, and most of the them at the lower levels.
Management - None
Played At - Crystal Palace, Aston Villa, Middlesbrough
Management - None
Played At - Millwall, Nottingham Forest, Middlesbrough
Management - Assistant Manager Swindon Town
Roles At - Derby County, York City
Management - Gateshead
Coached England U15
Where’s the world vision in this line up ? Who of these people have had real, and prolonged experience of the training methodology from the very best that the world has to offer ? None of the them. In fact, the current Head Of Sports Science at the club was plucked straight out of the University Of Teesside where he was lecturing in Exercise Physiology, and he played a key role in developing the club's training facilities at Rockwell Park.
Is this how AC Milan developed Milan Lab ?
Don’t get me wrong. Chris Barnes and Co. have no doubt done very well. They’ve no doubt put their hearts and souls, and all their fire and passion into their jobs at this club with all their might. They’ve no doubt given absolutely everything that they can give and for this alone they deserve a big, big thank you with a big, warm send off. Something Mr McClaren didn't do for the true Boro, “ Legend “ Juni. This is how to treat people. With total respect and human dignity. You tell them face to face that they’ve done a great job. You thank them for everything that they’ve done and you explain that it’s time to move on and bring in new people with more experiences and more to offer.
I’m not putting them down or having a go at them for one moment, far from it. This is how it is in all walks of life, and football should be no different. As they say in the old war film, " Difficult Decisions Are The Privilage Of Rank ", and so they are for Gareth, and so too he must act if he wishes to succeed, and he must do so before it's too late. In the interest of this football club. In the interest of bettering this football club. In the interest of achieving his and the clubs aims and goals, these people must go and they must be replaced with people who can offer more and make the aims and goals a reality. It’s that simple.
You think I'm being way too harsh ? Well let’s see if I can convince you otherwise...,
At the time that Massimo Maccarone left this football club the Head Of Sports Science didn’t believe in massage, even though at all the top football clubs the world over it's obligatory the day after a game, or upon the return after a day off is given. Perhaps Mr Barnes and Co. know something that the rest of the world doesn’t ?
There's a two hour window of opportunity after a person exercises in which the body soaks up as many nutrients as it can, much like a sponge. So the longer you leave it to eat, and the less the body will soak up. Basically this means that the sooner you eat, the sooner, and the better the body will recover, ready to start training again the next day. This piece of information is as basic as it comes, and it can be found in any cheapo book. So you would assume that eating directly after training would be obligatory before players left the training ground. Well, here at this club it isn’t. Again, perhaps Mr Barnes and Co. know something that the rest of the world doesn’t ?
You agree, but you don't want to sack these people as they are trusted, and they put their hearts and souls into what they do ? OK, fine. I can accept that, even if I don't agree with it, but then you must retrain them, as happens in every job up and down the land.
Maccarone. Mendieta. Rochemback. Marinelli. Just to mention a few. These people never fulfilled their true potential at this club. Why ? Is it, as the old chestnut of an excuse goes, that they couldn’t, “ Adapt To The Force And Pace Of The Premiership “. No. It isn’t. Does anyone here remember what Ravanelli said about the state of the training methodology when he was at this club ? What's changed since then ? Who's changed for the better since then ?
And what of the World Cup Winning samba star Ricardinho ? Does anyone remember him at the Boro ? Oh yes, he was here too, but Mr McClaren never deemed him good enough for the Boro and so he never played. A World Cup winning Brazillian samba star not good enough to get into the Boro team. How's that possible ?
But What About All The Foreign Players That Did Do Well At The Boro ! ", I hear you cry.
Juninho, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Bolo Zenden, and Fabrizzio Ravanelli. What about all of these people ?
Firstly, all of these players were experienced, seasoned players who were taking a big step down in terms the size of the club, the size of the squad, and of the quality within the squad itself. They all were big fish in a little pond.
Secondly, what people say in public, and what people say in private are two entirely different things alltogether. I'm not talking about the town, or the people of Middlesbrough here, as Juni really did love it here, and Bolo was also very happily settled in Yarm. I'm talking only about the club where some people, like Massimo and Ravanelli, make their opinions public, and others don't.
Thirdly, some people are able to adapt, react, and get their own people to give them extra training, just like Woodgate has his own personal trainer and physiotherapist at the club, and some people, like Massimo, just fall to pieces.
Finally, and this is a big, BIG factor that some clubs just don't seem to be able to understand when they buy foreign players, namely, if you're going to buy foreign players you absolutely must make sure that the club employs someone who speaks their language, and who's job it is to solely act for them in order to make sure that they're looked after properly, and helped to intergrate into their new local community.
Massimo was young when he came here. He'd never been so far away from his family and friends before, spoke no English whatsoever, didn't even know how to cook, and for most of his time here, unlike the other players mentined above, he had no countrymen in his team with which to feel at home with. When he first arrived here he was left in a hotel room for a couple of months with two Italian DVD's for company. That's it.
Absolutely no attempt was ever made to show him around the town, or to integrate him into the very small Italian community that Middlesbrough has.
Football coaching isn't just about coaching football.
One year McClaren let everyone else go home to see their family and friends, whilst Massimo was made to train at the club on his own with the reserve coaching staff. Yes, I fully accept that Massimo may have needed the extra work. But no, this wasn't the time, or the place to do it, as he hadn't been home in a long, long time, and all this did was to make him even more pissed off than he was before.
Like I said, football coaching isn't just about coaching football.
For me, this sums up just how utterly bad Steve McClaren was.
So, if you’re new to management and want to adopt, or continue the usual English pie, pea and pint mentality, so be it. But don’t be stupid enough to fill your squad with foreign players who may well have a much better idea about coaching than you do, and if you insist on doing so, make sure that you're able to understand their basic needs so that they don't feel all alone and a million miles away from home. Otherwise, don’t expect them to perform to the very best of their ability because they won’t. Take it from me as I’ve known him for 5 years. Massimo Maccarone came here with all guns blazing, physically and mentally ready to explode, and for all these reasons they ruined him. End of story.
But he’ll be back, and I stake whatever reputation I’ve got firmly and squarely on my dear, dear friend.
So, will Gareth Southgate and Colin Cooper one day become great managers ? Why not ? Who can say ? But until then, if they want to succeed at this football club then they’ve got to have the power from the chairman, they’ve got to have the conviction and the desire for revolution, and they've got to make the revolution happen. Now.
Revolution. Revolution, and not evolution is what’s required at this football club.
Abel Xavier has the right idea, even if you think that I don't.
Taken From The Northern Echo - April 7rd 2007.
Positive outlook vital to Boro's future - Xavier
ABEL Xavier believes Middlesbrough can become one of the biggest clubs in Europe if they tap into their undeveloped potential.
The Boro defender's comments may come as a surprise to many regional, national or even European observers, whose traditional view of the Teessiders is one of a club that plods along unremarkably in the Premier League.
Former manager Bryan Robson, backed by chairman Steve Gibson's vision, attempted to change that underachieving tag to take the club forward.
In many respects he did, leading Boro to three major cup finals. Yet this relative success was undermined by a relegation season and the club's subsequent struggle to preserve their top-flight status in the following years.
But under Steve McClaren's charge, the perception changed somewhat. He finally established Middlesbrough as a solid Premier League outfit before leading the club to glory when they claimed a first piece of major silverware in the shape of the Carling Cup in 2004.
McClaren followed that historic achievement by qualifying for the UEFA Cup, through a league position, for the first time in the club's history. Then they progressed all the way to the final, only to crash to Sevilla.
Ironically, Sevilla are one of the examples Xavier names as a blueprint for Middlesbrough to follow, along with their Spanish counterparts Valencia and French outfit Lyon.
Xavier insists it can be done, despite the suggestion Boro can compete with the European elite seeming more like a case of mission impossible.
Valencia, several seasons ago, were like Middlesbough, fighting to stay in their league," said the 34-year-old defender. "But since then they have been in three Champions League finals.
There are things behind the scenes that are vital in football to reflect a winning mentality on the pitch.
There is a negative environment in this city because there is a fear of going down. Things must change and we must provide that from inside to outside the club.
When you look at the club, it is a settled one, and the chairman wants to build a good club. But the ideas must still go forward.
I have the experience and knowledge. I have been at clubs who were fighting to win titles, to go in to the UEFA Champions League, and at those who go down. I can see a picture here that it can be done properly."
The former Portugal international acknowledges that, though the club is moving forward, no-one can afford to rest on their laurels. He believes more can be done to speed up the process of progression.
"There needs to be a base created for a good and positive environment at the club over the next two or three years, with players who show character" said Xavier.
"If we can do this we can challenge the top half of the table because you have a winning mentality. We still don't have a winning mentality here.
The people in charge at the club must change that for the club to go forwards. There are a lot of examples of teams abroad who are on the same levels and standards as Middlesbrough, and we're not talking about money.
Everybody knows that we have a positive academy, which creates talented players. But the quality has to be raised to step up performances and educate good habits, and in doing so you will create a better person and a better player.
Valencia, Lyon and Sevilla are good examples. There is a lot of research to be done and look behind the scenes (of those teams). You shouldn't stick with one orientation that is good, because it might not be good enough.
The teams that do this are successful. It is not a question of money or quality players, of course if you are fighting for the title and have the money you will attract a more intelligent player and create a better quality team.
But when Valencia won the title it wasn't the same as Real Madrid or Barcelona (in terms of money) - there is another way of doing things, by building the foundations behind the scenes.
It is not good enough for me to hear 'we are small town from the North-East and we must stick with our old ideas'.
No, if the club wants to go forward, as I know the chairman and gaffer wants, they need to jump, make the next step and globalise."
But how does any of this sorry strory relate to you and improving your own game ? Simple. it's a harsh, harsh lesson that you must learn at all costs. Massimo was treated shabily by a Premiership club, and by a manager who's simply lacking in far too many areas, ( man management and understanding what makes each individual player tick being the greatest of his flaws, ) of that I've absolutely no doubt whatsoever. But the harsh, harsh truth and the harsh, harsh reality is this. Massimo should've had the courage to take matters into his own hands sooner because at the end of the day the buck stopped with him. But he didn't.
For nearly three long years he saw the situation he was in and yet he did nothing, he did absolutely nothing and by the time he did act when he asked me to help him it was all way too late, as the man who bought him had long since made up his mind about him and had long since given up on him - for good.
So, yes, the club failed Massimo.
So, yes, Steve McClaren failed Massimo.
But I'm afraid to say, so yes, Massimo failed Massimo and so he must also take his share of the blame for his own downfall.
It's YOUR life. It's YOUR career. So it's up to YOU to take control in order to shape YOUR own destiny.
So, at whatever level of football you're at, and YOU find that things aren't going how YOU want them to go, then it's only ever up to YOU. YOU must take matters into YOUR own hands in order to make the improvements YOU want making by going outside of the club and finding the people YOU need in order to succeed.
There's no other way.
In closing all I can say is this. Come back to me at the end of next season and we’ll see exactly what Massimo has achieved, and then we’ll see who was right.
So far I'm right because the facts speak for themselves.
2006 / 2007
Thank you for your time.