My tales as boss would stun Klopp
Managing Tranmere in 90's threw up headaches no modern coach ever faces
IF I ever get a chance to sit down with Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp and compare our managerial experiences, I’m pretty sure he would be amazed by the tales I have to tell from my time in charge at Tranmere.
Klopp and the game’s current group of elite managers work in a world where most of the jobs that used to fall on my desk at Tranmere is done for them, with their focus trained on working with the first team and planning for matches.
Working with players and matchdays were the best part of management, but the sideline issues I had to deal with pushed me to breaking point and forced me to walk away from the game, never to return.
I managed Tranmere between 1996 and 2001, but I had to give it up because I just couldn’t cope with the demands of the job and, looking back, I can see why I was in such a state by the end of it.
A club like Liverpool now has teams of dieticians, statistical analysts, physiotherapists and the best in their class in all areas helping the first-team squad, but that network was sadly lacking in my time as a manager as I often felt I was fighting a lonely and impossible battle.
My backroom team consisted of my assistant Kevin Sheedy, a reserve-team manager and a few scouts who I relied on to get me bargains in the transfer market.
We were robbing Peter to pay Paul with our business in the transfer window. Tranmere sold our best young players to keep the club going and got replacements like David Kelly in for £200,000 and Paul Rideout in on a free transfer as we looked to build a successful team.
Amid that backdrop, I got the club to two FA Cup quarter-finals and the 2000 League Cup final, while bringing in around £11m in revenue by selling all of the young players we had brought through our academy system and moulded into sellable assets.
It was a record to be proud of, but my role as a manager did not start and finish around football matters.
At Tranmere, I was having to deal with so many financial issues off the field as well as preparing for matches and, at one point, I gave the club a loan of £100,000 from my own bank to keep them going. That alone highlights the different challenges managers faced back then.
You would get halfway through a week and have more problems on your desk than there were hours to solve them and, amid it all, you probably had a match to play every four days and training sessions to fit around it.
I’m sure this kind of set-up can still be found at lower league clubs in England, but managers like Klopp and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola are working in a very different world as so many of the tasks I was expected to do are being carried out by their support staff.
This is one of the reasons why I say management now is easier than it was 20 or 30 years ago, but it does come with new challenges that have changed the way players are handled.
Players and their agents have so much power these days and the biggest names have shown, time and again, that they will just sit back and refuse to perform if they don’t like a manager or they are unhappy at a club.
We have seen Paul Pogba and his publicity-seeking agent using the media to stir up trouble during his time at Manchester United.
In recent days, Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil went public to announce he will be staying at Arsenal until he gets every last penny out of his £350,000-a-week contract next summer, even if he never kicks another ball for the club.
These kind of players would be tough for someone with my temperament to manage, as I would want to give them a root up the backside if they were going to the papers undermining me or my team. The secret now is not letting it get to that point.
Modern managers need to strike a chord between being the leader and keeping the players on side, and that cannot be easy when you have some personalities who are keener to put their own interests ahead of their team.
This is where Klopp has proved to be a master, with his brand of management striking a perfect balance both in his dressing room and in his role as an ambassador for the club.
Several Manchester United and Everton fans have said to me in recent years that they struggle to dislike Klopp and I can see why.
He has a charming personality that combines warmth and humility, with that beaming smile adding to a persona that is so engaging.
Guardiola is another manager who appears to have a knack of getting players onside and that is primarily because he has been so successful down the years. Those in his dressing room want to be part of his winning teams.
When I look at some of the managers who have fallen by the wayside in recent years, it is primarily because they had egos bigger than many of the players working under them and, as a result, they are not in the game any more.
Sam Allardyce and Alan Pardew (inset) spring to mind as two who thought they were the stars of the show, but players see through their bull**** very quickly and when those two are asked to put their medals on the table, there would be no need for a duster as neither of them have won anything.
Football managers need to be clever and humble in the way they get the best out of players and while it will always be a results business, there is also a need to keep the players onside as much of the manager’s authority has been eroded over the last two decades.
It will always be the case that some players need an arm around the shoulder to perform and others will need a rocket up the arse from time to time.
Yet it is harder than ever to instil discipline into a team of millionaires who can turn their talent tap on and off at a moment’s notice.
The handful of managers who are succeeding in this era of the game are doing so with the help of a huge team of support staff, but they need to be politicians, diplomats and psychologists, as well as superb tacticians.
Only a chosen few possess all of those qualities and that is why they are thriving in the biggest jobs in the game.