Thursday, February 11, 2010

They think it’s all over

After my brief (and very successful) foray into the world of tabloid journalism. I was really looking forward to Zach Abrahams’ management training today. In fact, of all the classes in the programme, today’s was the one I was looking forward to most. The subject was Leadership and Building a Successful Team. Regular readers will know that I am a born leader, although a maverick one not unlike Clint Eastwood’s ‘Dirty’ Harry Callahan, so I knew from the outset that I would excel in the class.

Also, Zach had given me the heads-up during our private tutorial coaching class this weekend. This weekend’s class was a very specific case study and involved watching and dissecting in real-time the Chelsea/Arsenal game from a management perspective.

I’d arrived at Zach’s and he was looking very casual, almost as though he wasn’t even expecting me. But that’s just his style. He’s a trained psychoanalyst and sometimes he likes to play mind games with his students.

At £300 per hour Zach’s classes represent great value. It was almost as though we were just watching and chatting about John Terry, Vanessa Paroncell, Cheryl Cole dumping Ashley Cole and football, but that’s the genius of the man. He utilizes his in-depth knowledge of the mind to take everyday scenarios and expand on deeply theoretical and seemingly intangible management philosophies.

As a life-long Notts Forest supporter I was schooled in the finer points of one Brian Clough. I think Zach was really impressed with my football management know-how. So much so that he tagged on a few games of Fifa 10 on his PS3 at only 50 per cent extra on his hourly rate.

Clough’s genius lay in his ability to take a group of players that other managers had pretty much written off as mediocre and turn them into world beaters. How did he do this? Well, first up he had a great number two in Peter Taylor. For many, Taylor was the talent spotter, while Clough was the motivator. Cough was never as successful without Taylor and on his own he made some shocking acquisitions. But in fairness Clough was the leader even back in the early days, he surrounded himself with a core group of loyal hard-working players, to this team he mixed in a couple of real gems. Peter Shilton was one of Clough’s first signings at Forest and broke the British transfer record for a goalkeeper, while Trevor Francis (whose autograph I still have!!) was football’s first £1 million pound player. I only wish the autograph I get at ASDA was worth a million quid lol ;-)) !!!!

The other part of Clough’s genius was that he achieved what he did over a 20 year period in an alcoholic haze. I’m not condoning an over-reliance on booze, but I’m quite partial to the odd Cobra myself and, well, my Pro Evo track record speaks for itself.

Though he never disgraced himself like John Terry did by Shagging husband of Cheryl Cole , Ashley Cole's cast-off Vanessa Paroncell, Clough’s world eventually came tumbling down of course, his last season at the helm of the Reds saw them get relegated and he resigned a broken and severely damaged man. I suppose that’s the thing with great leaders, they can’t lead forever and then people only really ever remember what they were like at the end. Adolf Hitler was a pretty popular chap when he was elected, things headed south after a while of course. He over-stepped the mark, so fair enough.

It’s funny really, when you think about leaders throughout history, the immediate ones that spring to mind all seem to have ended their stint at the top with an almighty fall, or at least to have gone down in the pages of the history books with certain aspects of their personality called into question.

Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Mao Zedong, Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, they’re all names that just roll off the tongue aren’t they? They’re iconic leaders one and all, but you probably wouldn’t want them in charge of your local Cub Scout Pack. That said, the Akela of our local Pack, Terry Street, had certain qualities that you would not associate with the ideal shaping of small minds. I didn’t last long in the Cub Scouts, it was far too military for me, all that marching up and down pledging allegiance to the Queen.

Baden Powell was famously a little right of centre in his views. I doubt whether someone taking it upon themselves today to organise a nationwide network of little boys dressed in uniform would go down too well.

The thing with heroic leaders, of course, is that the history books are written by the victors, so here in the UK we’ve got Wellington, Churchill and Thatcher all lined up on the righteous side of the fence and they weren’t exactly covered in glory were they? One of them is famous for inventing the rubber boot, one an alcoholic whose most famous incarnation is a wobbly-headed dog that promotes cheap insurance and the other one is, well, the least said about her the better.

Making judgement calls on whether leaders are heroes or villains is a fairly subjective business. It got me thinking, I wonder who would win in an international football match between the heroic British hero first 11 and an all star line up of foreign villains?

Well, before we can consider who would win, there is the selection headache to consider. I mean initially I thought I couldn’t include Maggie Thatcher in the British heroes team since under FIFA regulations she wouldn’t be able to compete against men. Although, people have often called into question the issue of Thatcher’s gender. But I think that’s largely a sexistism standpoint. Chelsea Berlin, for instance, is not a fancy restaurant in the German capital, (s)he is the great hope of British women’s international football at the moment, and she used to me a man!!! So why not the other way around?

I’ve seen Gregory’s Girl, there’s no real reason why women should not be allowed to compete against men. If that were the case Team GB would almost certainly have Queens Boudica and Victoria in the starting eleven, not to mention Elizabeths I and II – I imagine they’d form a Charltonsesque pairing. I’d keep Florence Nightingale in the dugout armed with a magic sponge, because once the cheating foreigners got stuck into the Brits, there’d almost be some unsavoury off-the-ball antics.

Churchill would be my team captain, I’d have Wellington in attack along with Horatio Nelson. I’d probably have Oliver Cromwell marshalling events from the centre of the park, and I’d put Henry VIII in goal to keep him away from the women.

My opposite number would be spoilt for choice in terms of foreign villains, but that’s always going to be the case, they’re got real strength in depth. Here are the first eleven names that spring to mind – maybe you’ve got some other suggestions?

1. 1.Khan,

2. 2.Bonaparte

3. 3. Zedong

4. 4.Stalin

5. 5. Mussolini

6. 6. Hitler

7. 7.Bin Laden

8. 8.Khomeini

9. 9Jong-il

10. Franco

11. Milosevic

They look like a pretty tasty outfit, but I’m pretty confident that Team GB would come out on top. I know that might sound like the usual patriotic nonsense, after all the foreigner have got some real fire power. The thing is they’d probably all want to play in attack and that’d leave some gaping holes at the back. With the possible exception of Bin Laden, who having been selected for some exhibition stuff away from home early in his career, would probably go missing for large periods of the actual game, making the occasional showy move and then disappearing once again. Granted he’d be quite a distraction for the defence, but ultimately he’s probably not even worth marking.

Rule Britannia?

Barry Clough


  1. First, to say that Brian Cloughe achieved "what he did over a 20 year period in an alcoholic haze" is a complete febrication. His drinking was only a factor in the last few years of his career - get it right. His achievements were outstanding in the preceding years. Also, if you're really a life-long Forest fan you'll know it's Nottingham Forest and not Notts. Again, get it right.

  2. Yes, Brian Clough without the e - I was so incensed with your pathetic article.

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