In Chelsea’s squad lie England’s future managers

Saturday, June 1st, 1991 was the day when Man Utd won the Cup Winners Cup beating Barca, 2-1 in a nerve wracking final, the first such honour for an English side.
Steve Bruce almost scored a goal but it was Mark Hughes with two goals who stole the show. In that squad too were Paul Ince, Bryan Robson, and Mike Phelan. With Roy Keane coming on board two years later, Man Utd under Sir Alex provided the nucleus of a future generation of managers providing the league with some profound story lines. Like next week’s derby pitting a student and his former mentor.
Mark Hughes goes up against Sir Alex Ferguson in a fascinating encounter, a newly rich club with an unbeaten record this season goes against a Goliath forced into a makeover after years of domination. Player betrayal and inflated transfers provide the acrimonious subtext, including a tongue in cheek billboard that has raised the ire of the Scotsman. He faces another test at Sunderland against Steve Bruce who is raising his club’s profile with Darren Bent’s success and some tough defending. And it is in the realms of possibility that Roy Keane’s Tractor Boys or Paul Ince’s MK Dons should they go deeper into the FA Cup might end up meeting their former boss. At least Sir Alex can rely on some players returning to the roost as Bryan Robson did after his Sheffield United managerial tenure to become Man Utd’s public face. Mike Phelan took over Carlos Quieroz’s old job when he left to manage Portugal.
So which club provides the nucleus at present for managerial personalities? At Man Utd itself we have Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, and Ryan Giggs on the bubble. Do we doubt that they will go into an afterlife that has football written in it? Unlike the dressing room infractions or globetrotting ambitions that led the above managers to severe the umbilical cord and forge careers elsewhere, these three will finish their careers at Old Trafford under a decidedly more mellow Sir Alex. Will they go against a club and a manager who has nourished their careers for close to two decades?
They are already been slow getting of the gate. Giggs in particular has mentioned that he contemplates coaching after retirement and he might be absorbed right into the club’s management. Mark Hughes was already managing the Wales team while playing for Blackburn and Steve Bruce had several offers as player manager from different clubs while at Man Utd which he declined on the advice of Sir Alex.
We have to look elsewhere. And if Carlo Ancelotti looks suitably pumped nowadays it is his group of players who have made his coaching transition look easy. The maturity level of Chelsea’s players is just overwhelming. Having gone behind in several games already, the Blues have yet to hit the panic button. There is a mental toughness which makes these come from behind wins almost inevitable. And Ancelotti will be spared any personnel decisions if the prospective UEFA transfer ban till 2011 is enforced. It will have to come from the present squad.
There is another reason. Players like John Terry, Frank Lampard, and Ashley Cole were primed by Jose Mourinho. Under him and Abramovich they have thrived in their club’s culture of individualism, negotiating wages and taking charge in their clubs management. The way Terry outmaneuvered the shrewd Portugese by threatening a player revolt making him indispensable to Peter Kenyon and the board was positively Machiavellian. Their present coach meanwhile knows a thing or two about politicking himself having fallen out with Fabio Capello as a player while the England manager was coach of Milan. Putting distance between the club and their next career move is going to be a whole lot easier for this group of players.
Mourinho might have left an indelible impression as a powerful and combative tactician but it was Guus Hiddink who brought the equally important aspects of conflict resolution to a managerial role that most of these players will appreciate when they go onto their managing careers. Even the club’s overseas players like Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack, and Michael Essien look primed enough to be fast tracked into player manager jobs in their twilight of their career.
In about 10 years time, Lampard and Mourinho might be standing on the sidelines as opposing coaches providing another moment of football history. Or Terry could face Italy as England’s manager against Fabio Capello. Joe Cole might be the UEFA administrator overseeing player discipline. It all seems very likely and within reach with this Chelsea squad. Gianluca Vialli and Gianfranco Zola will have lots of company.

, , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *