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The Psychology Of Leadership: 5 Football Management Successes

Posted by Amy Fawkes on April 3rd, 2018 in Coaching For Performance in Football, Management.

Great leaders have a keen understanding of human psychology — this is often the creative catalyst for teams that are far greater than the sum of their parts.

For football fans of underdog clubs, bagging a talented manager might be the only chance of their loyalty being repaid with the sweet taste of triumph.

With that in mind, here are five football management successes from gaffers who turned base metal into gold.

  1. David Wagner, Huddersfield Town

Modern-era success proved elusive for Huddersfield Town A.F.C. — until local businessman Dean Hoyle injected cash into his boyhood club and secured the services of German-American manager David Wagner.

The Terriers were languishing in 18th spot in the Championship when Wagner took the helm in 2015.

But his astute transfer purchases created a team with attacking intent that was promoted to the Premiership for the 2017-18 season — bringing pride back to the West Yorkshire town and £200 million to the club’s coffers.

  1. Jimmy Nicholl, Raith Rovers

When Jimmy Nicholl became manager of Kirkcaldy’s Raith Rovers in 1990, the Fife club was populated by part-time players who washed their own kits.

But the team went from strength under his leadership — which blended tactical nous and tough training with post-, and occasionally pre-match pints of lager.

When they beat Celtic to lift the 1994 Scottish League Cup, the result shocked supporters and pundits alike. The win qualified Raith for a European campaign that ended in a glorious defeat to Bayern Munich and enough cash to build two new stands.

  1. Claudio Ranieri, Leicester City

Few fans would have predicted Leicester City’s 2015-16 Premier League title win — to grind out consistent victories in a division that includes the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea is stunning.

For his players, coach Claudio Ranieri’s sense of humour might have proved even more motivational than his technical expertise.

The ‘sausage man’ famously offered players hotdogs for keeping clean sheets against tough opposition, compared the team’s non-stop running style to Forrest Gump and famously described star striker Jamie Vardy as ‘a fantastic horse’.

  1. Heimir Hallgrimsson, Iceland

When Iceland national coach Heimir Hallgrimsson isn’t teaching players to execute the perfect pass, he’s pulling teeth in his other career as a dentist.

Neutral fans developed a sweet tooth for his spirited team and superb supporters during the Euro 2016 Championships — where they sent England packing and reached the quarter finals.

By encouraging his team to combine passion with precision, the self-belief they gained after each performance propelled them to an outstanding achievement.

  1. Herve Renard, Zambia

For some football fans, the backstory of Zambia’s 2012 African Cup of Nations triumph transcends sport.

In 1993 a Zambian Air Force flight carrying the national team to a World Cup qualifier against Senegal crashed off the shore of Libreville, Gabon, leaving no survivors.

So when inexperienced French coach Herve Renard brought his Zambia team back to Gabon for the 2012 tournament, emotions reached fever pitch.

He harnessed the team’s spirit through his close relationship with Kalusha Bwalya — a hero-figure considered the greatest Zambian player ever, who only survived the 1993 crash because he played for PSV Eindhoven and was travelling to Senegal separately.

Renard’s charismatic leadership led the team all the way to the final, where they beat Ivory Coast on penalties.

Despite emerging from different backgrounds and having varying degrees of experience, each of these managers displayed the intelligence and insight to attune to their team’s needs, mould them together and spur them to success.

These rare qualities are highly sought after in any sector where leaders need to inspire teams to become world-beaters.

We hope you enjoyed part three of our Psychology of Leadership series — parts one and two contain further interesting insights.

To learn more about leadership, take a look at these interesting blogs:

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Amy Fawkes
Hello, my name is Amy and I blog about all things to do with Distance Learning for Anglia Ruskin University. I am based in the beautiful academic city of Cambridge in the UK and love exploring great ways to bring Higher Education to those who cannot study full-time on campus.
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