The Premier Soccer League seems to become even more competitive as the seasons go by, more and more chairmen and club owners in the bottom half of the league table are becoming extremely fascinated with the idea of building a club side that can compete against the bigger teams above them in the league while ensuring that they can battle away against their more illustrious opponents and more resourceful teams in the league while ensuring that they can comfortably beat the teams around and below them on the table with the belief that this will allow the club to achieve a respectable league finish come seasons end and enjoy some success from an extended run in the endless club competitions. Many years of experience gathered being a top class Couch Coach have enabled your good mate Uncle Bob to prepare himself to come into our Boot Room and help us compile an effective guide for gaffers, technical directors and club owners looking to build a competitive top, bottom half of the table side using limited resources to yield unlimited returns on ambition invested and create scope for growth and success going forward.
Too many sides are caught in the unhealthy cycle of changing gaffers more often than a Casanova changes love interests, this can be attributed to various factors up to and including the effects of the change in the ambition levels of the club after a change in ownership, poor style of play and negative performances leading to a lack of belief in the whole establishment or a series of demoralising defeats at the hands of bigger teams in the league; yet what remains the constant root cause of the axe being brought down on the necks of many under pressure gaffers is the club flirting with relegation and the side looking like they will not improve under the current gaffers tenure. This reduced lack of faith in the gaffer often leads to the decision makers within the club rushing to make drastic changes in the hopes of improving the clubs fortunes, such changes are often seen as short-term fixes and the team ends up finding itself in a similar situation or worse off during the next season or two; this chain reaction leads to spectators becoming disillusioned with the lack of ambition showed by the club, sponsors seeing no reason to extend their association with the outfit and the playing standard of the league being compromised as the side is not being as competitive as they could and ought to be. It is no secret that playing in the PSL is far more lucrative than being stuck in the First Division, where it’s not always easy to make a swift return to the top flight; team owners can lose interest and pull their backing out of a club languishing in the NFD when they had dreams of playing PSL football.
Any sane club owner would do anything to ensure that their side is competitive enough to be able to avoid succumbing to the drop, the returns from playing in the PSL are substantial when we compare them to the level of investment required to compete at PSL level. A top class and competent gaffer needs to have the fortitude and vision to use the often limited resources available to build a build a competitive and complete football side that is more than capable of avoiding relegation and competing against the bigger sides in the league; allowing the side to maintain a respectable position on the league table and enjoy extended runs in the cup competitions with the hopes of catching one. This task requires the gaffer to be aware of five key points that can transform a lowly Premier Soccer League side into a competitive top half of the table team with the ability to compete in every single encounter.
The first and most important point that the gaffer needs to address is the issue of talent, a team can only be as successful as the quality of the talent and potential of the players on the roster allows them to be, any top class gaffer needs to know how to play the transfer market and ensure the acquisition of good players with experience on the cheap or via free transfers and also have the to ability to spot promising young players and bring them into the club for good fees and on loan deals; this thinking is one that allows top young talent to become conscious of their potential at the club and use their skills to bring success to the team and themselves, it’s a situation with the potential to benefit all parties involved. Being able to identify talent in a player, foresee the scope for growing that talent, securing the services of the player and affording him the platform he needs to play and grow his football can often be the differentiator between a budget-restricted side over performing in the league or languishing in and around the relegation zone for the duration of the season or succumbing to the dreaded drop. A competent gaffer needs to also have the ability to harness that eye for talent when it comes to his backroom staff as well, a good gaffer needs to be surrounded by a backroom think-tank that aids him in developing his players towards reaching their potential and allowing them to excel in the first-team setup. That means that there is a true need for coaches that know how best to nurture young players and motivate the senior members of the side while possessing a keen knowledge of how the team ought to play and what level the players ought to perform at, physiotherapists and fitness coaches that are knowledgeable in their fields and are able to ensure that the players are well conditioned for the duration of the season and are able to withstand the physical demands of the entire campaign, a good medical team is golden for a limited side as they can deal better with injuries and help ensure that the players are fit and available. Scouts with a keen eye for talent and the ability to assess the mental toughness of the players are also essential to a smaller side as recourses are limited and the gaffer cannot afford to misspend a single cent on a poor or under researched purchase; top scouts can scour the lower regions of our football fraternity and find talented young players for the cub to acquire on more feasible deals and develop that talent to bring success to the side ad hopefully sell off the player for handsome returns in the future.
The second point that needs to be considered is shape, any Couch Coach worthy of the title would tell you that the players dictate the formation, the gaffer needs to have to ability to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the players at his disposal early in pre-season and identify two to three set formations that the players need to be well versed in playing if they are to meet the minimum expectations of the club and gaffer during the seasons to come, one formation should be to contain the opposition players and keep them from applying too much pressure on the team by keeping hold of the ball longer and moving it around effectively while giving them enough support to launch attacks of their own when the opportunity allows, this tactic would be deployed at the start of games while the team settles into its rhythm. The second formation is also seen as one that looks to ensure that the team contains the opposition side, giving the team a solid defensive platform that allows them to lure the opposition in and look to win the ball deep in their own half and hit the opposition on the counter attack before they can transition back into defence after being on the offensive, this tactic would be applied against the bigger sides with more attacking thrust than the usual opposition. The third tactic should be the one that enables the side to fully focus on attacking the opposition and looking to create chances and score goals without leaving themselves vulnerable defensively, this gives the team the various shapes that they need to play good football in all circumstances and remain competitive regardless of the opposition or the expectations.
The third point for gaffers and top management to address when building a top bottom half of the table side with Top 8 ambitions has to be the style of play, is the unit built to win the ball deep inside their own half and look to counter their opposition with some more direct passing that affords them the chances to expose the gaps left behind by the opposition when they commit men into the attack? The gaffer needs to be apt when it comes to running the rule over his players and determining their suitability to playing a specific style of football, are his player truly able to pressurise the opposition into conceding possession inside their own half and look to open them up with a more intricate and fluid display of expansive passing football? A style of play that is well suited to the make-up of the entire side allows the players to have genuine belief in their strengths, this gives them the confidence to play their natural game even when the chips are down and they have their backs against the wall against better opponents. Also, shopping for and developing talent for the team becomes en easier task as the mould of player needed becomes even more evident when the team ‘s playing structure is set as the gaffer now knows what he wants from specific players in specific positions.
The fourth check-point an ambitious and competent gaffer needs to address is the very fickle matter regarding the support from the fans and management; this support can often become critical when times get tough for the side and the playing staff and coaches need that extra motivation and reason to keep going. Setting an uplifted and welcoming mood within the club creates an atmosphere that celebrates success very well while leaving room for more growth and a positive platform the side can use to overcome failures well and ensures that the players are driven to learn from losses and be motivated to return even stronger every time. Support is essential, especially within a side that is limited in resources as it is one of the decisive factors to success that money cannot buy. Support from the fans and the management creates the kind of environment that breeds success both personally and for the team while also encouraging every employee within the establishment to keep growing and performing at a high standard required to aid in the clubs growth and ensure that they remain with every chance of achieving and exceeding their targets.
The fifth and final point on any top class gaffer’s plan to build a successful and competitive top, bottom half of the table side has to be marketability. The brand should not only be appealing to the spectators and investors on the field because of their style of play and identifiable football culture, but the entire institution should be an enticing prospect for would be sponsors and investors whose resources could help propel the team onto a higher playing field where they can attract more quality to the team and win over even more fans while upping their success levels. A team with ambition and a well structured plan is a very attractive destination for coaches, players, fans, management staff and investors; this kind of drive also trickles down into all the structures at the club and allows the entire chain to work towards a common goal with a combined vision and a lot more gusto. Marketable sides are profitable sides, modern football has taught us that a club can often remain extremely profitable just by being marketable; a competitive football club with an identity is a brand, and brands are gold in the global economy of football.
Although this guide only has five points that need to be on any teams plan to turn a struggling lower half of the league table side into an efficient top half of the table side with the ability to compete against all the teams in the league, these five points are truly essential and are guaranteed to assist any gaffer, technical director, director of football or club owner looking to build sustainable success using limited resources and unlimited potential while also growing the football club. Too many teams suffer relegation or fail to become role players in the league because of a lack of planning for the growth of the club and ensuring that the team is built to compete and succeed, if more gaffers and bosses followed Uncle Bob’s guide, Bobs your second cousin’s father, less heads would roll and the axe would stay in its glass case as the playing standard of our league improves to a level that is comparable to the great financial standard.