Making managers

Recent events suggest that it is perfectly possible for a famous ex-player to step into the managerial role without ever having previously managed or coached at any level.

When the ever-explosive Irish international midfielder, inspiration and occasional roughneck Roy Keane was appointed manager of a Sunderland team in desperate straits, John Barnwell, head of the League Managers' Association, did not mince his words. "If you have no experience, it is very difficult," he said. "It is a minefield managing Sunderland, the expectations are massive. Unfortunately, personality appointments often fall." Adding, cautiously and diplomatically, not to say unconvincingly, "That is not to say I think he will fail."

For my part, I think he probably will, given the kind of combustible person that he is. Hard to forget the appalling saga which involved the Norwegian international midfielder, Alf-Inge Haaland, some years ago. It began when Keane was playing for Manchester United against Leeds United at Elland Road. In a blatant attempt to foul Haaland, he succeeded only in injuring himself so badly that he was out of the game for many weeks.

Keane sought what he considered, in his somewhat irrational way, to be revenge. It came some time later when Haaland, by then with Manchester City, was playing against Keane in the local derby at Old Trafford. By his own admission in his own torrid autobiography, Keane viciously fouled him, then stood over him, subjecting him to a tirade of obscene abuse.

Not to mention the notorious episode on a Japanese island on the eve of the 2002 World Cup. Keane, with good reason, deplored the fact that the Irish team had been put in a place where training facilities were abysmal, and there was nothing much to be found other than a red light district. Unwisely, Mick McCarthy, the Ireland team manager, for whom Keane had scant respect, confronted him in the presence of several team-mates; and found himself the target of a torrent of abuse. Keane was packed off home and though there were some attempts at a reconciliation, he took no part in the eventual tournament.

None of which is to deprecate Keane's status as an outstanding footballer of high technique, high morale and tremendous drive. Yet, his inability to suffer fools gladly on the field, his angry contempt for any colleague who he feels is not pulling his weight, always made him a potentially intimidating presence to his own team. How much patience, then, can he be expected to have with a Sunderland team which, relegated from the Premiership, made an appalling beginning to the new season under the chairman-cum-managership of Keane's old Irish international team-mate, Niall Quinn, new owner of a club with a huge history but a pitiful present? The danger, surely, will be that an out of patience Keane could simply demoralise his fragile players.

Yet, I would strongly take issue with implications of what John Barnwell, once an accomplished Arsenal midfield player, said on the subject of inexperience. The fact remains that even at international level, recent events suggest that it is perfectly possible for a famous ex-player to step into the managerial role without ever having previously managed or coached at any level.

This has twice been the case with Germany. Ironic really, since for many years we were led to believe that the Germans with their meticulous and demanding system had got things right. No ex-player, however famous, could take the reins of a club in the Bundesliga without going through an exhaustive apprenticeship, starting with a minor club and gradually, via various examinations, working his way up to the point where he was qualified to take over a major club. If this were true at club level, how much more would you expect it to be at the dizzy height of the German international team itself?

Yet, who should be appointed national team manager, when it came to contesting the 1986 World Cup, than Franz Beckenbauer? Alias Der Kaiser, the revered captain of the team which won the 1974 World Cup beating his equally illustrious rival, Johan Cruyff's Holland in the final in Munich. Franz had never coached or managed any team, though there could be no doubt of a tactical flair which had been evident from his teenaged times, when, with his club Bayern Munich, he virtually invented Total Football, conceiving the role of the attacking libero, surging, as he himself would do so effectively, out of ambush at the back.

A betrayal of principles on behalf of the ruling Deutsche Fussball Bund? Call it what you will, but it worked. Beckenbauer duly took a revitalised German team to Mexico and all but won the World Cup. Four years later, he would improve on that runners-up position and actually win the tournament in Italy. So, perhaps it should not have come as too great a surprise when, after years of disappointment at international level, the Germans should appoint another, shall we say, blast from the past quite without managerial experience in Juergen Klinsmann, once a star striker. Not only that, but he was domiciled in California and had to commute thousands of miles to oversee his team. For a very long time, Germany looked a poor proposition, even when the World Cup finals began. But, in the event, he took his team all the way to third position; then retired!

And now, Brazil appoint Dunga. One more famous ex-international, captain of the World Cup winning team of 1994, driving force on the field, but never a coach or manager at any level. Dunga demands that all his players put their heart and soul into their game. Something one might hope would be automatic. Will he succeed? He may well do.