Understanding the dynamics of a football club environment are an essential aspect, discipline and organisation are also important factors in successful teams.
“I placed discipline above all else and it might have cost us several titles. If I had to repeat things, I’d do precisely the same, because once you bid farewell to discipline, you say goodbye to success and set the stage for anarchy.” – Sir Alex Ferguson.
It was whilst speaking to a friend of mine in Tranmere Rovers Physio Ian Liversedge who has seen service at Newcastle United, Oldham Athletic, Burnley, Fleetwood Town and Accrington Stanley, to name some of his former clubs.
I cast my mind back to Ian’s time with Latics, whilst watching an interview with former Wigan Athletic manager Paul Cook, his assistant Peter Reid and former Southampton forward Mick Channon on the FA Cup Final win in 1977.
It took me back to Oldham Athletics success of a League Cup Final, promotion to the Premier League and two FA Cup Semi-Finals in the early ’90s, with Manchester United being the opponents, drawing both of them and losing both replays.
With football it brings defining moments one player, in particular, you could say broke Oldham Athletic players, staff and fans’ hearts that afternoon, ending a potential romantic love story with the FA Cup Final that they were seconds away from, succumbing to his very late equaliser to force a replay.
Joe Royle was set to make a substitution and bring Andy Ritchie on but whilst waiting for the ball to go out of play Neil Pointon popped up to give them the lead in front of 56,000 fans before Graeme Sharp missed a glorious chance go two up. In the end, Mark Hughes wiped it out with a spectacular volley a minute or so from the end of extra time.
When they walked off the Wembley pitch, his gaffer said to his physio, Ian Liversedge, “We don’t stand a chance in the replay on Wednesday do we?” Ian said no. They went into the dressing room and the lads had their head in their hands.
Mark Hughes’ goal was to change many lives, kick-starting a decline after years of steady progress. In the replay at Maine Road, United were sneaky. They bought the flying winger Andrei Kanchelskis in and they finished up playing with three full-backs! He had to go on at the end of the game and unscrew them from the ground they’d been turned so many times!
Liversedge described Mark Hughes’ equaliser the turning point in Oldham Athletic successful period. They failed to win any of the last seven games and were relegated from the Premier League on the last day of the season after a draw at Norwich City.
Starting afresh in the second level, they lost six out of 10 games up until the beginning of October. By November 1994, Joe, Willie Donachie and Ian had all left. One defining Mark Hughes moment had such an effect and they had a massive hangover lasting months.
For manager Joe Royle, he did eventually win the FA Cup with Everton and one of the few who did win it as a player and a manager. Manchester United went on to great success dominating the domestic honours just like Liverpool did in the ’80s.
That is until Alex Ferguson called time on his career. But football has its own timing. Just take Neil Warnock who still maintains tried and trusted methods throughout his fantastic achievements in the game, not losing any of his love and enthusiasm now managing Middlesbrough and looking to do similar to what he did at Cardiff City, QPR, Sheffield United, Huddersfield Town, Plymouth Argyl, Notts County twice and Scarborough.
Getting them promoted would be the ninth promotion of his career and a record achievement already for a manager and let’s not forget keeping Rotherham United up.
Neil maintains tried and trusted methods but knew he had taken Cardiff as far as he could when resigning last season having been relegated. He has his own, unique take on sports science and the game in general.
Everything is different now with diet and fitness regimes, Arsene Wenger changed it but your eyes still tell you whether a player is ready for it for or not. We must also remember it is still a game, not a science.
On reading a recent interview, he referred to love and fear as if you’re dealing with a difficult ball over the top and if you think, ‘I love this’, you just pluck it out of the air and pass it back. If you don’t, it bounces off your shin, goes to the centre forward and he smashes it in the top corner. Take away fear and you get momentum.