Leon Wobschall: Old school bosses not afraid to embrace forward-thinking techological methods

IF FOOTBALL supporters take one quote away from 2017, they could perhaps do worse than remember this one. Old school is now new school.

YING AND YANG: Chris Wilder, Darren Ferguson and Paul heckingbottom have managed to combine old and new coaching styles in their bid for success on the pitch.
YING AND YANG: Chris Wilder, Darren Ferguson and Paul heckingbottom have managed to combine old and new coaching styles in their bid for success on the pitch.

It will not come as a surprise to many that those words were uttered by Sheffield United manager Chris Wilder at the League Manager’s Association dinner in May.

Given the year that he has had, it is perhaps worth listening to.

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First things first, do not let it be said that Wilder does not embrace using the plethora of technological tools in the modern-day game, the kind that provide key data analysis and enlightenment in every facet of fitness, performance and tactics you can imagine.

In this day and age, you cannot stand still in the management game and must utilise such advances or perish. It is an ingrained part of football management. It is here to stay, too. If your ignore the ‘one per centers’, then others will not and you will leave yourself vulnerable.

But the trick is to use these aids to assist in your preparation and not wholly be guided by them.

Let’s face it, most footballers are not the most academically-minded of folk and that is not doing them a disservice either. They are blue-collar lads and blinding them with science and management-speak spiel has its pitfalls. They will invariably switch off at some point.

Yes, modern-day ‘superstar’ players may be seen as high-maintenance at a very highest level. But there are those – a bit further down for sure – who just want someone to follow and believe in, first and foremost and that is where man-management is more important than ever.

We all remember that well-respected teacher at school who had that little bit of something and was capable of keeping even the most unruly kids in line. Players want someone who is similarly straight, tells it like it is and commands respect and is fair and consistent ... someone who will dish out a rollicking when needs be and provide a pick-you-up when necessary.

We are pretty blessed in these parts in having a number of managers who are the embodiment of that – Wilder, Paul Heckingbottom and Darren Ferguson to name but three.

There are plenty of others too – streetwise blokes who have seen it and done it in the playing stakes and know what it is about and who can spot every old pro’s tricks in the book from a mile away.

Wilder is one of those managers who it simply would be foolish to cross as a player. He just has that look. Back him and give your all and he’ll look after you. But if you don’t ...

The team ethic at Sheffield United is second to none. No bad eggs and that unity is underpinning their remarkable season. It all surely stems from the manager.

Heckingbottom can count on the total respect of his charges too. Another manager who will look you straight in the eye and give you a firm handshake and has certain rules and standards. Players don’t mind that ... they want that.

The sight of a Barnsley player frantically dashing around the perimeter of the pitch to link up with his team-mates in time for the start of a morning session - following pre-match press commitments - is not an unusual one.

Rules are rules and we start on time ... by order of the gaffer.