Behind Every Good Manager is a Great Chairman

With the controversial exit of influential Southampton chairman Nicola Cortese this week, I’m examining the relationships between managers and chairman, and exactly what makes the best partnerships tick.

Behind Every Good Manager is a Great Chairman

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January 17th, 2014

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Okay, so I may be paraphrasing a famous quote, but the sentiment stands – look back at most successful clubs throughout history and you’ll find that they had a grounded, capable and more importantly supportive, chairman.

Sir Alex Ferguson said back in 2011: “More than ever, management is a precarious industry. I say to all young managers that the first thing they need is a good chairman.” That quote got repeated a lot when Ole Gunnar Solskjaer decided to ignore ‘the gaffer’s’ advice and take the poisoned chalice that is the Cardiff City hot seat, and why should we ignore the advice of a man who spent 26 successful years in charge of one of the most successful football clubs in modern history?

Indeed, had it not been for then-chairman Martin Edwards, Manchester United would not have hired a (relatively) fresh-faced Scot who would guide them to 13 Premier League titles, and 25 other honours, throughout his 26-year tenure. Edwards also supported Ferguson in the signings of players such as Eric Cantona, as well as developing their Youth Academy.

Arsenal owe the majority of their (not so) recent success to former vice-chairman David Dein, who was influential in bringing Arsene Wenger to the club back in 1996. He then helped mastermind deals that brought together ‘The Invincibles’ who went 49 games unbeaten, winning the League in the 2003/04 season. Dein was heavily involved, even entering the dressing room after games to shake each player by the hand. That’s the kind of man who attracts the best players in the world to your club.

It’s no surprise that Arsenal have failed to win anything since his departure in 2007.

With less and less of these influential chairmen in the game, it’s no wonder our clubs are failing to attract top talents to the Premier League. We all know of Manchester United’s abysmal summer in terms of transfers, with Ed Woodward failing to endear himself to the United faithful with a lack of signings.

Leeds fans only need you to mention the name ‘Ken Bates’ before they regale you with tales of how he ruined their club, let them spend no money and was generally the cause of everything bad in the world.

And need we mention Mr Tan? The Cardiff boss mysteriously sacked Malky Mackay, hired some bloke from Azerbaijan, and tried to change everything about the club. I reiterate – Ole, what were you thinking?!

So in a nutshell, young managers, choose your club not for their heritage, but for their chairman. If you’re an aspiring Arsene or a flourishing Fergie, it could be the best decision you ever make.

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