Motivation Chapter III

If you’ve been reading my riffs on guts and motivation this week, you might be forgiven for thinking me completely jaded. I don’t actually believe that any attempts to inspire or motivate footballers is futile. I simply question 1) whether motivation is what’s been lacking at Fulham these past months, and 2) whether the ability to motivate should be the trait of primary importance in a football manager.

Over the course of a 38 match league season, there are of course going to be times when not every player is 100 percent up for it, one of the endearing things about sport is that athletes are not, in fact, robots.

So, if players do occasionally need to be motivated, who should be in charge of this task, and more importantly, who is most effective in this task?

I submit to you that there are two entities who are much more suited to the task of motivation than a team manager, and two entities who, when properly utilized are much, much, much, better at it.

The team captain and the supporters.

Let’s face it. Managers are bosses, and even when we like and get along with our bosses, there is always going to be a little bit of antipathy in that relationship. Bosses tell people what to do, and most people don’t like being told what to do.

Team captains don’t have that problem. A good team captain is a player first, he’s not a pawn of management, he represents the players. And if he’s a good captain, he will be respected by his teammates in a way that no manager can be. So when the captain offers leadership, either vocally, or by example, it’s more inspiring than some old geezer who hasn’t been there since the days before goal nets and tabloids telling you need to try harder.

Do captains like this grow on trees? They do not. Is Brian McBride a captain like this? I have no idea. None of us do.

The other entity that can inspire players is the crowd. 20,000 vocal supporters is the best team talk in the world. And yes, players have to inspire the crowd as well. But if a crowd really and truly cares, then it would take a heart of stone not to be affected.

Should a manager have no say in the motivation and inspiration of his team? Of course not. But should the ability to motivate be the first and last trait a team looks to in a manager? No.

Show me a manager who can buy and sell players wisely, and come up with a solid tactical game plan, a captain who leads from the pitch, and a vocal and enthusiastic crowd and I’ll show you a healthy football club.

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