The difference between soccer coaches and managers has always been quite vague. But, they do have different responsibilities, and we will go through everything about that in this article.
Why soccer coaches are called managers? The distinction between soccer coaches and managers is their responsibilities. Managers are responsible for player management and in-game coaching, while coaches are more focused on team preparation, practices, and making the players the best possible to win matches.
Soccer Clubs Run Like Any Other Business
To understand why soccer coaches are called managers, we must first realize that a soccer club is run like any other business.
From boardroom level down to the canteen staff, each person inside a club has their role, and while many have stayed the same over the years, the role of soccer manager has changed drastically as the modern game evolves.
From the earliest soccer clubs, teams were run through a committee, a precursor to the modern boardrooms of today. The inevitable result of this was the appointment of a team manager, someone to oversee the club and report directly to the managing committee.
The modern-day rifts between a club manager and the board, sometimes resulting in the dreaded vote of confidence for the manager, often resulting in the dismissal of said manager, was much rarer.
Manager and board often worked very closely, a structure that had proven successful in business also worked well inside a professional sports club.
A manager in any environment has to be given respect, the staff, and in the instance of a soccer club, the players, all must have trust in the manager in order to succeed.
Indeed, in Italy, a manager is often called “mister”, an honorific finding its origins in English soccer, and given as a mark of respect to the man in charge.
Managers Who Rarely Coach
Managers who rarely coach are certainly not obsolete, although they are often not found at clubs that are historically classed as larger than the norm.
Smaller clubs with smaller budgets or aspirations still need a firm hand at the helm and a complete manager that is able to control and oversee every aspect of the running of a club can be vital.
One example of this kind of manager is Sam Allardyce, a man known for his ability to come into a club in trouble, and turn things around. Allardyce is known as a man manager who can, with limited resources, change the fortunes of a club sliding towards relegation.
He rarely has funds to spend, often has aging or inferior players, but has on multiple occasions kept teams from imploding through his management abilities.
Through changing things from the inside, Allardyce professionalizes a club’s structure, brings belief to players, and is an excellent organizer.
It has often been said that he is rarely seen on a training pitch, he knows the players he has and simply gives them an environment in which to prosper. Buying players for key positions when possible, ensuring everyone knows their role, Allardyce is a prime example of a soccer manager.
The Progression From Manager To Coach
Club managers have always been the face of a club. If things are going well, the manager is lauded for their tactical skills, other clubs often look to steal them away.
The flip side to that coin is that when things don’t go so well, it is the manager that gets the sack. The board rarely leaves, the players are too valuable and numerous, you can’t fire everyone after all.
So it is the manager who bears the brunt of the backlash, as well as their share in the glory. And this has always been the way of things, especially in years past, when clubs and expectations were smaller, the pace slower.
Now that the modern game and all of the trappings of increased media coverage, financial implications, and a now truly global game has brought to the sport, a manager simply has to evolve in order to survive.
It is impossible for a manager to have complete control over everything inside their club any longer, the clubs and the game itself have simply grown too massively.
During the heyday of soccer management, managers such as Brian Clough at Derby, and later at Nottingham Forest, controlled everything at the club.
From buying and selling players, picking the team, ordering the supplies, ensuring the pitch was in good condition, media handling, board meetings, training, being the physio, the list is endless.
Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United also fits into this mold, controlling, focussed attention to detail, he ran his club like a fiefdom, dealing with training, players, buying and selling, the press, everything.
As the game has become global, the risks behind having just one person oversee everything have become too dangerous, managers have had to delegate.
New roles have been created at clubs, and keep being created, there is now a staff structure in place that handles the media, scouts who travel the globe in search of new talent, nutritionists who deal with players’ diets, loan managers who look for clubs to send players to for development.
For the truly elite clubs, there are even staff members who focus on substitutions, set pieces, and other niche areas that were once the domain of one man, the manager.
A manager today will now focus more on the team, still overseeing the club, meeting with directors of football to find new players, media specialists, physios, and backroom staff, while trying to focus more on coaching the team how to play.
Modern Coaches In Soccer
Inside many elite clubs these days, the manager is commonly known as the head coach. As likely to be found on the pitch wearing a tracksuit as they are to be found wearing a suit in a management meeting.
Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Thomas Tuchel at Chelsea are prime examples of modern managers who need to specialize. As their respective clubs are simply too large to function as a single entity, these managers are forced to compartmentalize.
They are still the managers, they are still ultimately responsible for the club as a whole, but always they focus on the team itself.
Keeping players happy, developing them on the pitch through training sessions and personal focus. Dealing with elite soccer players is less about showing them how to pass a football, but when to press as a collective, how to rotate and close down the opposition.
When Thomas Tuchel took over at Chelsea, they were struggling in mid-table in the Premier League, results were sketchy and the club seemed to be going backward.
Unable to buy new players, Tuchel turned the club around within a month, coaching the team he had to press the opposition, he tweaked a few things and took Chelsea on to win the Champions League.
He did this not through the now outdated method of looking to buy fresh players in the transfer window or reverting to the older players to ensure that the team simply got by, he coached the players at his disposal.
Within four weeks Chelsea looked like a different team, they were aggressive, dominated teams, results and players attitudes changed. Everything except the personnel changed, and this was allowed to happen because Tuchel is a modern coach.
Is There a Difference Between a Head Coach A Manager?
At the end of the day, soccer is a results-driven industry. Many managers now identify as being the head coach of a team rather than a club manager, although there are many around who would class themselves as a manager first, and a coach second.
Possibly a better way to think about why soccer coaches are called managers is simply because they have always been called the manager. It is comfortable and for those looking in from the outside, most adults can identify with a ‘manager’ as someone who is in charge.
As soccer management has evolved, so too have those in charge, the once fiercely important moniker of club manager has slowly been replaced by the mantle of head coach.
Pep Guardiola probably doesn’t care what his job title is, but call Brian Clough or Sir Alex Ferguson anything but the manager or boss, and you may well have felt the full force of their famous tempers.