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Talking Shop - David Pleat (3)

Posted on 10 November 2000  - 12:00

Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) Football Club is located in North London. The club is also known as Spurs. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane. The club motto is Audere est Facere (To dare is to do).

The point of this exercise is like young players — we must be clever enough to identify talent. What is Jimmy Armfield doing in the FA? And what of older heads like Lawrie McMenemy, Dave Sexton, Bobby Robson and Graham Taylor, who I respect immensely. These are people who should have been sitting on a think tank deciding who replaced Kevin Keegan and who should be pushed into advanced positions in the coaching system in this country.

Howard Wilkinson has worked very honestly and genuinely to do ten years work in two years with the academies. I hope, because of all the problems, which could arise due to the introduction of Eriksson on a long-term contract, that Howard isn’t sacrificed or he decides that it is time to leave his position.

Identification of coaching is important, the same as the selection of good young players to be coached is important. What is also vital among coaches, where we fall at national level, is having the creativity and imagination to make players play without a one-dimensional concept. When I see good goals scored it is usually because there is good movement in the last 30-40 yards, some jiggery-pokery or trickiness, or even outstanding pace which may lead to a penalty. Quality in the attacking third is absolutely vital.

What has happened in the English game in the last 25 years is that people who have been successful in coaching have been pushed into other jobs. The youth coach becomes reserve coach, who eventually becomes the first team coach and then becomes the manager. Indeed it happened to me.

Lawrie McMenemy (pictured) recalls the change as he became successful, ending up as 70 per cent a manager, 30 per cent a coach, whereas when he started his career — which he really loved — he was 70 per cent coach, 30 per cent manager.

We have to get the balance right. The managers’ role now is far more involved with other factions of the club. That is why at Tottenham, things like contracts, keeping an eye on movements in the academy, being in touch with the medical situation and overseeing scouting is basically left to me with George Graham’s input from time to time.

But the manager’s role in this club is to maximise the professional players at his disposal and, from time to time, identify or select players we may want to go for to improve the team.

This is the continental way. This the way PSV have gone over years, all the clubs in Italy and, in Germany, Bayern Munich have been very successful. The general manager there is Uli Hoeness and they also have Franz Beckenbauer as president. They try and introduce as much knowledge as possible off the park, so that on the park and on the training field it will go smoothly. And no person who is an accountant or an office boy or indeed a misplaced businessman who’s become a chairman will be dictating what we should or should not be doing.

Hopefully the days of chairman taking over football clubs, which has happened recently, are a flirtation and will be nothing more than that. Don’t ever, ever belittle the value of a good quality coach. In the end he needs good quality players, but a good quality coach can influence things between nought to 10 per cent. And that is a most vital statistic.

I have seen many good teams produced in lower leagues because the manager/coach had an idea and a vision which proved successful for the team. Often they were direct ball teams, but that is not to say that it can’t be successful football, even though it may bring only temporary success. In the end, quality must out and that is why we must continue to look hard and search for quality in both coaching and players — and have a system that maximises it.