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How Much Does a Top Club’s Manager Matter?

  • November 26, 2021

That first day, for an incoming manager at a new club, must be overwhelming. There is an entire squad of players to meet, to get to know, to win over. There is a staff, nervous of your intentions and fearful of what the future may hold, to convince and, hopefully, to command.

There are training schedules to draw up and tactics to implement and a great pile of footage to watch, to try and work out where it went wrong — because it has, more often than not, gone wrong, and that is why you have a job — and how it might be put right. There are political currents to detect, alliances to forge, enmities to soothe. And there is no time, because there is a game looming on the horizon, a first impression to make.

And yet, before all of that, there is one thing that seems to consume all new managers, young and old, fresh and wizened, hopeful and worldly-wise, one question that must be addressed before anything else can happen, one decision that will set the tone for your reign: Where do you stand, exactly, vis-à-vis ketchup?

Managers seem to spend more time than might be expected establishing their precise policy on condiments. Within a few days of arriving at Aston Villa, Steven Gerrard had banned them. So, too, had Antonio Conte, when he joined Tottenham.

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