Premier League technical bench shifts a mirror into club feelings

02Jul 2022
Michael Eneza
The Guardian
Premier League technical bench shifts a mirror into club feelings

​​​​​​​CHANGING the mood in a Premier League side – or elsewhere – after either defeat or a series of defeats is often conducted by dismissing the coach, signaling that the club is ready for a fresh start.

Former Simba SC head coach, Pablo Franco Martin.

Admittedly most changes of coach and another take over are followed by an improvement in performance but it is not always sustainable, and even within a few months one can tell which changes were successful and which were not.

It is unclear why some new coach selections succeed but others fail, is it the coaches or the club?

This was among the hallmarks of outgoing Tanzania's NBC Premier League, where several clubs hanged coached midway or thereabouts and reached divergent levels of success by getting new coaches.

The two most notable changes were conducted with the city archrivals, Young Africans SC, alias Yanga, and Simba SC, where it is clear that Yanga had a smooth ride after that and Simba SC a good ride at best, parting ways towards the very end of the season.

The change in Yanga succeeded more in its objectives.

One thing that comes up in this situation, and which has often beleaguered coaches, is the difference between coaches, trainers, and selectors of teams, which is often noticed in how national team coaches are titled.

In the England Premier League, the head coach is described or known as the manager, which is technically a wider term than coaching but its principal component is coaching.

By contrast, one hears of the Brazilian national team ‘selectioner,’ at times used interchangeably with, say, the French national team ‘trainer,’ meaning the same thing, that he is the head coach. It is a different signal of the tasks.

When looking at these designations, it implies that the concept of coaching may involve a project to build a team, but ordinarily, that is a secondary dimension of the task, which starts with coaching – that is, one has a team in front of him, and is tasked with making it a winning outfit.

Adding a player or two along the way is not the main issue, or altering the whole side at the end of the season is similarly irrelevant.

In our club management format, the one managing the team is the club leader, setting out the scale of ambitions and the means to realize those ambitions.

This involves picking players and handing them to the coach.

This premise sets out the rationale for sacking a coach for instance Pablo Franco Martin at Simba SC lately, that if the issue was a project, it would have been unlikely that the club holds him responsible for the relatively poor showing in local competitions, and underperformance in continental tourneys.

It is the club leadership that has the managerial role, and unquestionably they have been at pains to underline precisely what sort of team can realize the club objective of making it to the semi-finals of the premier continental tourney, the CAF Champions League. They did not blame the coach pointedly for this.

With national teams there is at times a trainer or ‘selectioner,’ as the range of players one needs and who fits in what position is less observable than with clubs, especially as one just picks who appears to be best suited for the position, not conducting any commerce.

The player recruitment and purchasing operation that is conducted virtually all the year round is considerably limited in the national team context, where just the coach is related in a commercial arrangement with the soccer federation, and managers of the national side.

Players are simply honoured to feature on the national side, so frankly no ‘management’ is involved.

In that case, impressions of hard decisions on coaches, for instance axing Pablo lately, are part of a specific design, in the sense that not all the failures were attributed to him, but on a fairly well-considered note, he did not arrive at fulfilling the part assigned to him as such.

Some raised questions as to how far he was in control of the technical bench, and indeed he did not fully control all of it, but what damage was occasioned by this situation is guesswork. Reflexes often decide whether one did his best.

One can therefore admit that technical bench shifts are usually warranted, on the proviso all the same that the preliminary understanding between club and coach, of a certain objective to be realized, is too often unrealistic.

For instance, all clubs facing relegation or playoffs contracted their coaches with a clear wish to remain comfortable in the league table, and in several cases, upper mid-table sides were gunning for the top four, meanwhile as only two clubs are in a realistic demand to take the title.

So the coaches go along with inflated expectations and the only proper contractual point is the length of the contract, as when one shortens it there is a dividend that goes to the coach for that frustration. Thus we shed no tears.

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