TFN regular Piers Barber takes a look at some of the more unusual managerial strategies of recent years…
Roy Hodgson raised a few eyebrows last week with his confirmation that Dr Steve Peters had been recruited to work with the England team during their preparations for this summer’s World Cup.
The idea that the recruitment of a psychiatrist will be sufficient to heal England’s mental block over penalties at major tournaments may be a bit of a stretch, to say the least. Yet the madness levels of Hodgson’s latest addition to his coaching staff pale into insignificance compared to some of the other weird and wonderful strategies that his managerial counterparts have employed over the years. Here are some of the best.
Raymond Domenech – star signs
“I am not superstitious, it brings bad luck,” Raymond Domenech once insisted to the press. His belief in star signs and astrology must clearly fall under a different category, then, as the former French national team coach has admitted that a player’s star sign did have an impact on his selection decisions, “marginally, at the end of the selection process when it is a question of choosing between players of equal ability.” As Robert Pires discovered to his cost back in 2004, Domenech has a particular aversion to Scorpios, whom he believes to be too temperamental, and is fearful of Leos, who he knows are “going to want to show off at one moment or another and cost us.” France’s calamitous showing at the 2010 World Cup, Domenech’s last tournament in charge of the national team, suggested he could perhaps have done with adopting a different superstition.
Luis Felipe Scolari – religion
Of all the sources of help and guidance you could potentially call on to help give your team an added advantage on the pitch, God Himself must surely be one of the best options. Luis Felipe Scolari has regularly looked to religion to help lead his teams to victory: after winning the 2002 World Cup with Brazil, his players and staff all dropped to their knees to thank God for their victory in Yokohama, with Scolari subsequently deciding to make the 12 mile pilgrimage to the sanctuary of Our Lady of Caravaggio in Brazil to offer his thanks. He’s called on divine assistance at club level, too, crediting God for Didier Drogba’s speedy recovery from a knee injury whilst at Chelsea: “I am religious, so I prayed for God to help me, and sometimes God helps me,” he explained back in 2008.
Paulo Di Canio – authoritarianism
Di Canio’s penchant for order and dictatorship (and – whisper it – for fascism) has always been an integral characteristic of his management style. After taking control at Sunderland last season, Di Canio ordered a comprehensive ban on an extensive list of rather conventional items, including mobile phones (which he promised to throw in the sea if he caught one on a player at the training ground), tomato ketchup and mayonnaise (because of their high fat content) and ice in coke (because it causes indigestion – apparently). Singing before games was also made an offence, with the Italian arguing that frivolities prior to kick off disturbed a player’s concentration. Di Canio’s draconian strategies can hardly be argued to have been all that effective – he was sacked after just half a year in charge at the Stadium of Light.
Glenn Hoddle – faith healing
Hoddle seems to have had a bit of a tendency for the unorthodox: Gary Neville claims the former England boss used to touch his players just over the heart as part of his pre-match routine, whilst he also bought in French doctor Yann Rougier to administer performance enhancing injections to members of his England squad during the 1998 World Cup (above board, honest…). His best known and most eccentric strategy, however, was his recruitment of faith healer Eileen Drury to work with his team at the same tournament. Drury had apparently helped Hoddle recover from injury during his playing days with Tottenham, although her contributions weren’t taken all that seriously by his England players, with Ray Parlour famously asking for a “short back and sides” when called in to lie on her treatment table.
Carlos Queiroz – paintball
The former Manchester United assistant coach has always struggled to adapt to life as the main man at both club and international level, and a quick glance at some of his training regimes perhaps makes it easy to understand why. Just a week before leading his Portugal squad into the opening fixture of their 2010 World Cup campaign against the Ivory Coast, Queiroz ordered his side to take part in an army training session – complete with camouflage and facemasks. Activities included marching, climbing on top of each other in an attempt to make the highest man-made structure possible, and a reportedly rather intense game of full-blown paintball. One struggles to imagine the like of Cristiano Ronaldo being all that impressed by such innovative coaching techniques, and they didn’t prove all that efficient, with Quieroz’s team crashing out of the tournament at the first knockout stage.
The best of the rest
Bayern Munich are just one of the major teams to have attempted to resolve their injury woes by enlisting the services of controversial doctor Hans Wilhelm Muller-Wohlfhart, whose treatments have included the administering of goats blood to help heal St Johnstone attacker Peter MacDonald. Dr Richard Steadman’s methods – which have included the installation of ligament from a dead man into the knee of Hull City’s Jimmy Bullard – have also raised a few eyebrows. Bolivian team Blooming, meanwhile, reportedly give their players sex drug Viagra to help them cope with the extreme altitude in the country, due to its ability to provoke increased blood flow. Turns out there are plenty of imaginative folk in football, after all.