The bigger they come, the harder they fall: How the UK media can write a football manager’s destiny

The Premier League is going to be very exciting next season. We’ve got 3 new managers in Mourinho, Guardiola and Conte joining a host of proven Premier League managers such as Klopp, Pochettino, Wenger and Ranieri. There’s no doubt that the Premier League if the most exciting league in the world and I’m sure the English teams will soon be competing in the latter stages of the Champions league on a regular basis again. It’s going to be an interesting summer as we see which of the worlds best players will be tempted to join one of the top Premier League teams.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 18.43.57What makes the Premier League so exciting is the competition between so many teams. Leicester City will look to at least finish in the top 4 after winning the league in the 15/16 season. Arsenal fans will demand that their team are genuinely challenging for the title after finishing second last season and Tottenham will look to build and improve on a 3rd place finish. Guardiola will also be looking to improve on Manchester City’s fourth place finish. To add to this, Mourinho’s Manchester United will be want to be challenging for the league title, Chelsea will improve under Conte and Liverpool will be expecting to build on their encouraging season under Jurgen Klopp. West Ham, Everton and Southampton also deserve mentions as other teams who have great potential to do big things.

Competition, expectation and unpredictability are the reasons that makes the Premier League so interesting. But they are also  the major problems for the managers of the top teams. We have 7 teams who will all be expecting to finish in the top 4, and here in lies the problem which the respective managers of these clubs face. A quick maths equation shows that there’s not space for everyone to be successful. And when a football manager is not successful, we all know that it only ends in one way.

Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 18.39.50The media have a big part to play in which managers are perceived to be successful. Journalists all around the country  are busy building up the top teams and their managers, basking in the glory of the world’s top coaches gracing our shores. There are copious  amounts of articles on Mourinho, Pep and Conte. I get it, I understand that it’s an exciting time to be involved in football in England but what’s not often openly mentioned, for obvious reasons, is the power of the media in shaping a managers image, and ultimately their destiny. The media in the UK are very powerful. A quick look back at last season will show you how influential the media can be at forming the nations opinions and forcing an agenda until it actually becomes reality.

Let’s look at Louis Van Gaal as a case study. The Dutchman arrived in the UK in 2014 Screen Shot 2016-05-29 at 18.24.54with a reputation for being a bit abrasive. LVG had a successful, if not entirely smooth, first season at Manchester United and guided the club back into the Champions League. However, even during his first season it was evident that he did not take to the media and there was clear tension between the two parties with some high profile fall outs taking place at various press conferences. As the second season started it was clear that there was an agenda against the Dutchman. With United top of the league in November the media were trying to continuingly attacking his style of play, emphasising the lack attacking football while conveniently ignoring their brilliant defensive record and overall team resilience. It was clear that the UK media were not fond of LVG and LVG was not fond of the UK media, both parties seemed to feel disrespected. Now I’m not saying that some of what the media were writing wasn’t true but it was clear that they wanted LVG out of a job. He did not play the media game and in their opinion, his face just did not fit. In the latter stages of the 15/16 season, an enormous amount of articles continued to paint LVG as the villian. From the misrepresentation of quotes to the choice of photo used in articles, the media had a large part to play in shaping the perception of LVG. Ultimately it seemed that LVG started fight the wrong battle; against the media and ex-players, rather than his actual footballing opposition. Succumbing to the pressure, he changed his playing style and a rapid decline followed. Eventually he was sacked at the end of the season with the news breaking on the BBC website in the minutes after they had just won the club’s first FA Cup for 12 years. This was a carefully timed and calculated announcement in what seemed to be the final show of power and victory for the media in the fight against LVG.

With the expectation on so many managers this season, the media have their pick of who they paint as the hero and who they paint as the villian. Let’s not forget, the journalists currently celebrating Mourinho’s appointment at Man Utd are the very same ones that were writing his eulogy before he had even before sacked by Chelsea just months ago. The power of words and images are very powerful and unfortunately, the UK media know it all to well.

So let’s wait and see which managers the media take to in the 16/17 season. My only advice to the new in-coming managers who have never managed in England is to keep your friends close and your enemies closer, it’s not just how you perform with your players that can determine your success as a football manager in this country.

As the old saying goes; the bigger they come, the harder they fall.

Written by Elliott



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