For the past three and a half years Chris Coleman has been the Barclays Premierships ‘Rookie Manager’ but with the arrival of both Gareth Southgate and Aidy Boothroyd it’s a tag he’s now able to shed. As a player Coleman was renowned as a confident leader, a characteristic that typifies his management style. Chris Coleman has been speaking to Sue McCann for the League Managers’ Association.
In football there are ‘expectations’ of clubs; some clubs are expected to qualify for the Champions League, some are expected so finish mid table and some are expected to fight relegation. What is expected from Fulham?
“I think the expectations outside of the club and the perceptions outside of the club are different to what’s inside for me and my players. Our goal this season is to finish in the top half and that is what we are going to attempt to do. Outside, certain quarters are expecting us to be relegated, I’ve been tipped for the sack every year since I’ve been in management and that won’t change. So inside the camp we are really geared up, we’ve got a good togetherness, we’ve had a good start, we’ve got to build on that and enhance the good feeling and the confidence that we’ve got at the minute. We’ve got to go to Tottenham and if we can get any kind of result there it’ll help us along the way. So inside Fulham football club we’re all saying we want to finish in the top half, outside we’ll be tipped for relegation I’m sure.”
It almost feels as if your character is now rubbing off on your team, you as an individual totally believe you can achieve what you set your mind to, you’re very driven and it appears to me that your players have inherited your qualities and are mirroring what you were like as a player…
“Sometimes I don’t know whether I am arrogant or not, but I never used to have any fear going onto the pitch no matter who I played against. I always felt that whatever was thrown at me I would cope with. It’s the same as a manager, whatever team I put out on the pitch and whatever team I play against I’m always very confident within my own team. They’re a great bunch and no matter who we play against, you send them out and say ‘look, we can a result here’ it’s as simple as that; Manchester United, Arsenal, doesn’t matter who, we can get a result. You’ve got to believe that you can get a result otherwise its pointless turning up. Last week, away to Newcastle we showed great determination and character and I love winning games like that. To win a game away from home you have got to show a lot of character. You can go and play great football, make lots of chances and we did that last year and we let ourselves down in the last 20 minutes because we caved in and we didn’t show enough belief. We showed a lot of bottle last Saturday and I was delighted with that result.”
You’re no longer the Premiership’s ‘rookie’ manager; how glad are you to get rid of that tag and pass it onto your good friend Gareth Southgate?
“Poor Gareth eh…he’s just a young puppy (laughs). Again it’s not something that I thought about (the rookie tag) it was something that was thrown at me or was talked about outside of the club but it’s not something that I thought about. It didn’t matter if I was up against Alex Ferguson or someone else, you approach the game in the same way, you want to win and I didn’t stop for one minute and think ‘My God, I’m like 30 years younger than the manager in the opposition’s dugout’. I would imagine Gareth’s the same. I’m not bothered really I just look at every game as another game, Kevin Keegan always said to me ‘the most important game is the next game because it’s the next game that you’ll be judged on’. He’s right, we beat Newcastle Saturday, we had a few beers Saturday night and that was a great feeling and now I’ve forgotten about Newcastle and all I can think about is Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday, and how are we going to go there, combat them and get a good result because that’s the most important thing.”
Gareth Southgate is someone you know so well from being team mates at Crystal Palace; how do you expect him to get on, he’s quiet in his approach at the moment but he’s had two very good results against Arsenal and Chelsea?
“I know they lost at home to Portsmouth 4 nil and I found it remarkable really that people were already coming out of the woodwork giving their opinions. It really annoys me, he’s two minutes into the job and I’m not saying that because I’ve known him for along time, but you’ve got to give him time to settle in. He’s beaten Chelsea and drawn with Arsenal and in your first 4 games that’s not an easy start regardless of the Portsmouth result. He’ll be fine Gareth, he’s an intelligent boy, he’s got a good feeling for football and a good feeling for the dressing room. People say a manager’s only as good as his players and that’s true but it also extends to, that you are only as good as your staff as well. You’ve got to have a good strong staff around you and I know (Boro coach) Steve Harrison from Crystal Palace and he’s a tremendous fella you need strong staff around you. I’m glad to say that when I’ve had some bad times at Fulham my staff have been fantastic and they’ve helped me through. As a manager you cannot stand alone, you need strong staff around you, a strong togetherness and a lot of confidence and belief. I’ve got that. I’m sure Gareth has got that at Middlesbrough and if he has, with the knowledge that he’s got of football which is a lot because he’s spent most of his career in the top flight, an England International, he will know all about players. Gareth’s an intelligent enough boy to know what he’s good at and what’s he’s not. It might not be an easy season for Boro or they might have a good one, who knows we’ll wait and see, but I believe he’ll be in there for the long run.”
With the likes of you, Gareth, Iain Dowie, Alan Pardew. Aidy Boothroyd, the ‘next generation’ of managers is beginning to emerge, what do you expect from the most recent recruit to management Roy Keane?
“Roy Keane’s come on the scene and you can see what’s happened at Sunderland, I’ve not been to a game yet but I can tell you what’s happened; he’s arrived, it’s Roy Keane, he’s got that persona, he was a leader on the park and you know what he’s going to be like as a manager. He’s lifted everybody, he’s lifted the players on the pitch, the Sunderland crowds will grow bigger, there’ll be more belief in the club because he’s able to carry people along with him. You’re born with that, you can’t go to a coaching course and be taught that, Roy Keane has that quality to carry people along with him and I think he’s going to do a fantastic job there.”
For the younger managers coming through, there appears to be senior managers like Sir Alex who are willing to give you advice….. “I don’t know if it’s arrogance or not but I’ve never really called anybody and said ‘look I’ve got a problem here’. I’ve had conversations with Big Sam (Allardyce) and I’ve got a lot of respect for Big Sam, I talk to Steve Bruce, Mark Hughes, Sir Alex as well. If I had a major problem and needed advice I would probably call Sir Alex because he’s been in the Premiership with Manchester United for almost 20 years so he knows what this league is all about.”