The Undervalued Importance of Assistant Managers
It’s safe to say that if an average soccer fan were shown a picture of José Mourinho and asked which club he managed, he would know the answer straight away. Same would be said for Carlo Ancelotti, Pep Guardiola, or Massimiliano Allegri. Football managers quickly become the “face” of the clubs they lead. They are responsible for the majority of decisions and players’ characteristics usually emulate those of the managers (with any luck).
But what if the average fan were shown a picture of Paul Clement and asked which club he managed? Same question for Tassotti Mauro, Domenec Torrent, or Silvino Louro? Not many would.
For the record: Paul Clement is Carlo Ancelotti’s assistant at Real Madrid FC, Tassotti Mauro is Massimiliano Allegri’s assistant at AC Milan, Domenec Torrent assists Pep Guardiola at Bayern Munchen, and Silvino Louro assists Jose Mourinho at Chelsea FC.
In any sport, assistant mangers/coaches are unsung heroes and their importance is undervalued. Most home supporters are fully aware of their manager’s assistants and the roles they play, but outside of the club that is not the case.
This statement isn’t groundbreaking. In any profession, people understand the value of a quality support system in the workplace. The boss is the one whose head is on a platter if the business is stuttering. That’s why it’s important for him/her to choose quality associates and delegate authority appropriately. They would want loyal individuals with a tremendous work ethic, defined roles, and the ability to put in the necessary time it takes to insure the business a success.
In football management, an ideal assistant would be one with previous head coaching experience. It can’t be stated enough how important it is to have assistants who understand the difficulties a head coach faces each day.
Brian Kidd is currently the joint-assistant manager at Manchester City FC. Prior to working under Manuel Pellegrini, Kidd has worked alongside some notable managers in the sport: Sir Alex Ferguson, Roberto Mancini, Terry Venables, Neil Warnock, and Sven-Göran Eriksson. He also spent time as the head coach of Barrow, Preston North End, and Blackburn Rovers. But since 2000, his sole responsibilities have been in support of the manager.
Kidd has spent time at every level of the sport. He’s been a player, youth/reserve team coach, as well as various other duties involved in management. He prides himself on being an “unassuming figure”. His qualities have allowed him to remain at clubs despite the sacking of the first team manager. He worked for both David O’Leary and Neil Warnock while at Leeds United. He then assisted Warnock again while at Sheffield United and remained at the club after Warnock resigned and Bryan Robson took over. And most recently, he remained on staff at Manchester City after Roberto Mancini was replaced by Manuel Pellegrini.
More than likely, the reason why Pellegrini chose to keep Kidd on staff is because of his experience within the Premier League. In any profession, having someone who is familiar with every aspect of the workplace can be invaluable to a new boss. Kidd provides this to Pellegrini, as well as an understanding of the players and day to day operations at Manchester City.
When arriving at a club, some new managers will bring their previous assistant coaches with them. Paul Clement (Real Madrid) and Silvino Louro (Chelsea) would be examples of this practice.
Previously, Clement worked under Ancelotti for two seasons at Chelsea. After Ancelotti split from Chelsea, Clement spent time at Blackburn before rejoining him at Paris Saint-Germain. When Real Madrid was able to acquire Ancelotti this summer, Clement was retained by the Italian-born coach.
The story of Clement’s rise into coaching is one of the more interesting ones you’ll ever hear. He never played professional football and worked as a PE teacher from 1995-2000. While working as a teacher, he studied for his coaching badges while assisting Chelsea’s ‘Football in the Community’ program. He was eventually picked out by former Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink to become a member of his backroom staff. But it was when Ancelotti took over at the club that Clement was made an assistant. And the timing couldn’t have been any better for him. Chelsea finished that season as Premier League and FA Cup winners.
Louro is one of the best goalkeeping coaches in football. He has worked under José Mourinho at Porto, Chelsea, Inter Milan, Real Madrid, and again at Chelsea. Petr Cech credits Louro with helping him adapt to the physical nature of English football. Three of his previous goalkeepers have been honored as UEFA’s Best Goalkeeper: Baía (Porto), Cech, and Júlio César (Inter Milan).
These men bring a level of comfort to Ancelotti and Mourinho’s staffs. They have spent years working with each other and there is a tremendous value in that understanding. A manager doesn’t have to spend additional time explaining his every thought and action. He knows that individuals, such as these, will be able to do what he wants and relate his thoughts appropriately to the team. It saves time having to start from “square one” with a brand new staff member.
Probably the most notable managing partnership in the history of English football was the relationship between Brian Clough and Peter Taylor. The two worked side by side at Hartlepool, Derby County, Brighton & Hove Albion, and Nottingham Forest. Their footballing lives were well-documented in the book and movie, The Damned United.
Clough was outspoken, full of self-belief, and grandiose. He was more than comfortable having the spotlight and cameras directed at himself. He was a footballing genius… and he knew it.
Taylor was an outstanding evaluator of talent. He complimented Clough’s brash displays by remaining calm and collected. Clough maintained a tremendous amount of trust and respect for Taylor. Although Peter Taylor was offered many managerial positions throughout his career, he chose to work alongside Clough for fifteen years.
There was a time when Clough and Taylor had a falling out. In 1974, Taylor ended up taking the manager position at Brighton & Hove Albion for two seasons before returning to Clough’s staff at Nottingham Forest in 1976. During their time at Nottingham Forest, the duo directed the club to numerous English titles. But Clough and Taylor’s crowning achievement was leading Nottingham Forest to back to back European Cups (1978-79 and 1979-80).
Peter Taylor died suddenly in October 1990. Nine years later, a bust of Brian Clough was unveiled at City Ground (Nottingham Forest). Clough asked for the “Brian Clough Stand” to be renamed the “Brian Clough and Peter Taylor Stand” to show respect to his longtime friend and assistant.
In 2010, Derby County unveiled “The Brian Clough and Peter Taylor Monument” at Pride Park Stadium.
With the growth of media outlets, assistant managers and other game day staff are beginning to receive more recognition. There are times when assistant managers will handle media responsibilities (pre- and post-match interview, press conferences, etc.) for the boss. But their contributions still remain vastly undervalued by the majority of fans. But there’s no question of their value to the club or its manager. Loyal and trustworthy assistants are the unsung heroes of football management.