Making the transition from playing football to coaching football is by no means as simple or automatic as it may sometimes seem, as is evidenced by the number of skilled professional players who end up taking positions as TV pundits rather than continue up the career ladder that is football, but with ever more pressure being placed on a side’s management by corporate interests and the media, is this a sensible career gamble for a former player of the beautiful game?
• Coaching at Arsenal
• U15 first step
• Future national coach?
You only have to look at the troubles that have befallen Jose Mourinho, Rafael Benitez and Louis van Gaal to this season to know that being a head coach or manager of a top tier football club is a double edged sword at the best of times, and the multifaceted nature of the position is leaps and bounds beyond where it was in the grey old days before pay-per-view television and the all pervasive media attention that seemingly gets ever more intrusive, and ever more critical with each passing season.
The dual requirements of handling the media AND motivating and organizing the team of thickos on the pitch requires a particular sort of temperament that frankly isn’t often found in the world of professional footballers. Can you honestly see Wayne Rooney as a manager? No of course not, Zinedine Zidane might be able to restrain himself from headbutting people long enough to cope with the career gamble that is management, but Wayne would have to string sentences together. Forget it.
The recent FIFA scandal, however, has proven one thing beyond the criminal nature of Blatter and Platini, there’s an awful lot of money floating about in football, the wafting scent of the gravy train even now still overpowering the stench of corruption. Top managers already command huge pay packets but with the lure of untold wealth at the top of the football tree, it’s not a bad career gamble, and the latest to go for it is someone those that bet on sports in Sweden will be all too familiar with.
Do You Back A Team Based On The Manager?
Freddie Ljungberg is a legend. The Swede from Vittsjo was, in his playing days, the consumate professional starting out with a four year stint for Halmstads BK, the team that had brought him up through their youth program, and hitting the big time with a move to Arsenal in 1998 where he’d stay for nine years and be part of one of the greatest club teams ever to grace a pitch; The Invincibles – The 2003-2004 Arsenal side that won the English Premier League without losing a single match all season.
Naturally this makes the Gunner’s faithful well disposed towards Freddie, and thus it isn’t surprising that he’s chosen to take his next career gamble (playing for West Ham was a bit of an odd gamble at the time and the less said about his time at the Seattle Sounders or Chicago Fire the better methinks) by joining the north London side to earn his coaching badges. Now if you’re Swedish gambling laws of comic writing means this will now invoke me to produce a comparison with the boy scouts, you may be right.
The mental image of trainee managers standing around in a football changing room wearing a camel hair coat over an ill-fitting suit festooned with the various badges a modern manager would require whilst saluting badly and saying “Wib wob wab” (or whatever) is just too delicious to resist. Just what would these badges, which are in reality perfectly reasonable and recognized international qualifications, be for? How would they be taught and which skills would they represent?
Ljungberg Career Gamble Depends On Getting Badges
Obviously there would be one for fobbing off irritatingly accurate press speculation, another for dealing with prima donna players from abroad, yet another for gesticulating wildly from the touchline and, of course, one for use of hackneyed cliches in front of the television cameras after a match. In reality however it’s all about organization and professionalism. Perhaps thankfully Freddie Ljungberg’s career gamble on management begins not in the forefront of football but with the Arsenal U15 side.
This inauspicious sounding start is just the beginning and one that has already proven a valuable experience for up and coming managers, Thierry Henry (the most beloved man in Irish football), is another ex-Arsenal player that Arsene Wenger has been happy to see return to the club in their pursuit of the heady heights of football management. Players that choose this career gamble it will all go well, but for so many it doesn’t sit as well with them as they might wish, just ask Gary Neville in Valencia.
After 216 appearances and 72 goals for the Gunners (as well as turning out 75 times and scoring 14 for his country) you’d think that a squad of Under-15s would hold very little challenge for him, however any scout master will tell you this is far from the truth, and if the idea of a comparison with scouting is ludicrous, the complete chaos that can accompany a group of fourteen year old boys will be more than enough training, just don’t go gambling news you’ll get odds on their matches at ComeOn! Sportsbook until Freddie’s career gamble moves into the U21 bracket as he marches on to an almost inevitable position as manager of the Swedish national side in about fifteen years time.