The Non League Secret Manager - New season, new attitudes?

"So here we are a few games into the new season. Some teams have got off to great starts, while others of course haven’t. Already some managers are under pressure, which I find quite sad, as leagues aren’t won or lost in the first few games of the season.

I am aware that some managers spent pre season announcing that they are going to win the league, heaping unnecessary pressure on themselves, and now find themselves making excuses for their not so great start. I also find it interesting that many of these managers set their teams up to play good passing football in pre season, but then revert to a more direct style in league games. I think that the passing football isn’t coached properly during pre season, so the players lack the confidence to play that way. I also think that when you get off to a bad start, managers can panic and therefore set up not to lose. This often means smacking the ball up and down the pitch, taking no risks, but invariably good, well coached sides will find a way through, especially if you have done your homework. The problem often with this is that players lose heart. Players generally want to try and play, and good players want to be coached, but get bored quickly of long ball tactics. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for it, especially if a long ball time does it effectively and are challenging for league titles.

The modern player has changed, possibly for the worse in my opinion. To me, non league football is about winning, and I think so many players today don’t actually reach their full potential, and winning isn’t their biggest priority. Too many players are more worried about looking good. They have nice coloured boots, nice hair, and dress well, like being paid to play and are quick to tell girls they are a semi pro. I always say to my players, fannying about on the pitch won’t get you laid, but scoring goals and being successful will. Too many players now think they know it all, and care only about themselves. They are the sort of player who will make a bad pass, then point the finger at the team mate he failed to pass to. I actually think they do this to make themselves look better to the fans. However, I am not stupid, nor are many of my fellow managers.

To win leagues, players need to have the right attitude, and managers need to trust their players’ abilities. They need to be able to take responsibility for their mistakes and learn from them. They need to train as if their life depends on it, and listen to what experienced coaches are telling them. I have no problem with players dressing well and trying to look good, but I cannot stand second rate attitudes, and these players don’t last two minutes at my club. The players need to play each game as if it’s their last and give everything for themselves and their team mates. Successful teams do this. We all want to play pretty Spanish football and open teams up with one touch play, but sometimes you need to do whatever is necessary to win. We are after all in a results business. I am referring to instances when you are winning by one goal, and there’s ten minutes to go. No one wants to see that pretty haired winger doing Cryuff turns on the half way line, losing the ball and as a result conceding a goal. However, that pretty haired winger will often go home believing he has been man of the match, as he did a load of step overs during the game.

However, this is where we managers and coaches need to also take responsibility for our players’ development. I am a firm believer that my job is to teach players to be better, so they can keep moving on up. It is our job to teach them their roles and responsibilities both on and off the ball, the where and why of positional, tactical and technical play. It surprises me that some players who have come from pro club academies do not have a clue. I find it incredible that as full time players, no one has told them to make that near post run, cross the ball early, spin off your marker or be ball side/goal side of your man when you’re defending.

Nothing gives me greater satisfaction than seeing one of my players move up the leagues, sometimes into pro football. However these are the players who want it, who listen, look after themselves between games and make huge sacrifices. The rest, well they con their team mates and supporters by trying to look good whilst looking out for themselves."