Do Managers Ever Really Lose the Dressing Room?

Henry Titley-Wall vs. Jay Matthems
White desk lamp beside green plant

John 0:00

Hello everybody, today we're discussing whether you can lose a dressing room. I'm Dr. John Mills and this is Sports Debate.

John 0:26

So do you ever really lose a dressing room when managing a sports team? Raymond daanish, the coach of the French national team in 2010, who famously saw his team boycott training might suggest that you can lose a dressing room whereas former Crystal Palace manager, Blackpool manager Bristol Rovers manager Ian Holloway doesn't think you can lose a dressing room. He argues that he hasn't lost a dressing room. He knows exactly where it is. It's down the hallway on the left. Let's meet tonight's co hosts. First up and debating that you can lose a dressing room is Jay Madams Jay is a legend of local football, the ginger Pirlo and a lecturer in physio therapy at the University of Essex. Good evening, Jay. How you doing?

Jay 1:08

Evening Hohn, what an intro that is. It's almost like our pages paid you some money to say that, but that's a

John 1:15

Donations are gratefully accepted. So and arguing that you do not lose a dressing room as a manager is Henry Titly-Wall. Henry is a performance analyst. He's a lecturer at UA 92. And as a former teammate of a former England number one, Joe Hart. How you doing Henry? Yeah, good. Thank you. Definitely. He's definitely taking Joe Hart in on this, by the way, he'll be calling you out, we'll be showing. So as is always the case, with this show, we toss a coin. Historically, I've asked random you to pick a pick, whether it's heads or tails. But tonight, I'm just going to go ahead and say that Henry is heads, and Jay is tails. And then let's give this coin a toss. And it is heads, Henry, you are up first. As always, you got three minutes to make your opening argument. After three minutes, I will come in and ask you to wrap it up, basically. All right. Over to you.

Henry 2:28

So I guess similar to Ian Holloway, what do we mean by losing the dressing room? In the sense that, to me, kind of that revolves around the idea of relationships, and the wider discussion is often focused on team performance and motivation. Sorry, this can in terms of effort mean, kind of discipline or tactics? But I mean, firstly, how much of a factor is the manager in terms of motivation of high performance athletes? Why they, you know, does a high performance athletes have kind of intrinsic or intrinsic motivations? I think from from theory, we know that there is far more to in athletes, motivation levels than just leadership. You know, there's a lot more that goes into it than that environmental factors are, you know, highly key and probably the leading factor within that. Secondly, in terms of my points is, how much motivation is involved in kind of executing a role within a team professional sports level, think individuals have their own intrinsic motivation and, and, and intrinsic goals? How much does that have an impact. And then just to kind of like finish up, we typically kind of attribute poor performance to kind of coaching management leadership. So when performance or form drops is directly kind of reflective of the manager. And I think we directly attribute that and I'm not sure that is always the case. We all know that there are more significantly important variables for individual performance than just leadership and just the manager. So my argument here is that just because a team's performance or form drops doesn't necessarily mean the individuals within that team, or the motivation of the individuals or the group cohesion is poor, and vice versa. I think there's a lot focused around kind of group cohesion here theory. And it's really interesting to discuss I think, if we, we look at Karen's model, in terms of theory, you've got environmental factors at the top of the tree, in terms of the most influential and have contractual responsibilities and organisation orientation, things like that, that, you know, then then we start to have leadership factors and personal factors which are equal to that level. So I think, for me, in terms of can you lose the dressing room, I don't think managers and players necessarily lose the dressing room. I think it's more the case that there's other performance factors involved in his that necessarily kind of have an overriding factor. And when team sports that's going to be more significant than one individual in terms of leadership style and, and managerial side of things.

John 5:19

Lovely. Jay, over to you.

Jay 5:22

Brilliant. Thanks, john. First and foremost, a lot of those points Henry, totally agree with you, I think what we need to realise is that both at the highest level and even at grass roots right down to the bottom, the wheel is so such a fragile environment for a team sport, potentially, if you're if you're leading a group, whether you be a manager, for instance, or head coach, I just think is trying to keep that dynamic at the very highest level and working from a technical point of view from a leadership point of view, from a dynamics between teammates, because sometimes it's not even really about the manager themselves. It's how the manager coordinates his his team underneath him to work to work as a cohesive unit to get 100%. And I think, if we're looking at output every single time, we're looking at, how can I, as a manager, look to really maximise what I've got here. So what you might find is that is that a manager is got 95% of the team working to tactical plan, they're already enjoying what the manager is really trying to ask them to do, they're already really buying into it, but there might be one player who hasn't got his way or he's not fully on board isn't as involved as he wants to be. And that could potentially at an elite level, and even probably at a grassroots level, if that player decides to not fully buy in that can be that could be a goal and a big match that could be that could be the start of not really meeting or, or creating that environment to to get the best out of your squad. So I think managers, the best managers in the world and the best head coaches, they're the ones that can, like Juergen Klopp, say you can even when players aren't playing, they can keep people happy, so that they're pushing everybody to make that elite level the entire single time. And that's maximising and optimising factors such as tactical plans, man management, making sure the technical coaching is up to scratch and lots of different factors. So I just think it's who be a manager, we artists all the time, you can lose a dressing room. After one game, potentially, if you make a decision which a lot your players and let's not be, let's not be silly, a lot of elite sportsmen and sportsmen and women in general that know the game, if you know the game, and so on your annual leader makes a mistake or does something which a lot of you don't agree with. That trust trust is a massive thing in sport. And I think that you can you can make one mistake and you're already on to a slippery slope. So you might not lose the entire dressing room. But if you're if you're trying to achieve and trying to get the maximum out of your squad, it's just a case of trying to maximise all those factors to get 100% as often as you can.

John 8:20

Thanks, Jay. Yeah, I think I think the point you're making about the length of time is interesting. I don't know if you guys have been if you follow the MLS at all, but I think it was Cincinnati with the app Stam, who was sacked after two games is it or something like some ridiculous length of time for a player of his ability, but obviously something had happened there that suggests that that fit wasn't wasn't right. Okay, let's take a very, very quick break, go and grab a cup of tea and then let's come back and we can cross examine and go through this in a little bit more detail.

John 9:10

Okay, welcome back. In part two, the Co-hosts will cross examine each other's arguments as Henry went first, if you would like to cross examine Jays arguments first, Henry, you're very welcome to do so. And then after that, J, you'll have an opportunity to come back at him up on any of the points that he made. So Henry, you're up.

Henry 9:31

Excellent. Thanks, john. Jay you make some excellent points. And I couldn't agree with you more. In terms of the coaching perspective, I think a lot of the things you brought up is is from from a coaching perspective as a couple of questions. I've gotten I think it is the case of what do we mean by losing the dressing room? I think it seems to be like a generalised term and I'm just wondering from your side, what you what you would instigate as being the main factors in losing the dressing room.

Jay 10:01

So now you definitely right? I mean, the media always put it as the managers last the dressing room, the players don't have trust in the player. So I think it is, it is a case of that tactical cohesion and everybody buying into a common goal. So that we were talking about that in sport. And I mean, you geysers probably talk about it a bit more than what I would do coming from a physical and rehab point of view. It's trying is trying to create that environment where everybody's on board with the plan. And I know at the top, the top level players are paid to, to do their jobs and to follow a plan. And you often hear the pundits saying this, this plays down tools, well, they might not down tools at all, it's just that those little bits, or if you're not fully by and buying into a project or a tactical plan, you might be still carrying it out, but you're not going to do it with conviction. And that might be literally and one of our co hosts dressed and he's talking about marginal gains. But if you're, if you're not fully on board with a positional strategy, for instance, and you think on I don't, I'm not on board with that, then that could be, you could lose the game, couldn't you, you could lose them lose three points or whatever sport you're playing in. So I don't know how you feel about that. Henry, like it's, I just think about the smallest the smallest margins in elite sport.

John 11:26

Is it worth me just briefly outlining what, because I looked up the definition of this earlier just out of interest, and there are various definitions. But I would say the common thread is this idea of trust that Jay pointed out that a head coach or managers lost the trust, respect or belief of his or her players, basically. And that's kind of what they mean by losing the dressing room generally. Oh, I would say looking at, if you look across multiple different definitions of this, that's the key threads that run across all of the different versions.

Henry 11:59

Yeah, I thought that, that that's kind of where I was kind of getting, why I mentioned and why I brought up group cohesion in a way in terms of Yeah, elements of social loafing in there were players on opting to, to perform and to, as you would put it, as you as you kind of rightly said, you know, they might not be on board. But then what I will counter that with is, how do we know when a manager has gained the dressing room in the first place? like john mentioned, someone has come in for a couple of days, I don't think as soon as you get a position, you're instantly won the dressing room. I think there's a there's a there's a bedding in period, and whether john mentioned something we discussed quite heavily as club fit. And that kind of involvement in isn't the right person for the job. And I think, yeah, in there needs to be a almost kind of contractual binding for him from a sports coaching, leadership and kind of athlete, Coach athlete relationship to even Warren, the idea that the dressing room has been lost in the first place. And then I think there's a difference between. So I think it all revolves around group cohesion. By the sense of losing the dressing room, we're talking about losing everyone. If you lose one player, is you kind of mentioned, is that losing their dressing room? Or is that just poor from a managerial kind of decision making perspective to play that player even though there that there's elements of social loading kind of involved in that? So I think I would counter some of your points with regards to whether one player makes a mistake. And is that automatically losing the dressing room? I think there's so many factors involved with performance, and the execution of skill that are outside of leadership. Leadership is just one facet of that. And things like environmental constraints, personal factors, cultural, everything that kind of goes around that I think they're the main factors, and it's just one, one factor within that in terms of managerial element in terms of group cohesion. So yeah, that's kind of what I'd counter your kind of arguments with in terms of that, that one individual maybe not playing, but

Jay 14:23

I probably say like, unless you're, unless you win, or you win, and everything goes right, a manager probably is always at risk of losing the dress, or losing the dressing room. I wouldn't say you've ever really got it 100% unless you, you win or you perform to an elite level in a particular event. So I think you're and that's what management is, isn't it to a certain extent is it's trying to maximise the potential of your group or whoever you're trying to lead. So it must be really, really tricky and it might not even be like you said, Henry, it might not even be particularly The manager themselves, it might be that there's a few unhappy players that are trying to influence and the social and social dynamics of a group must be so tricky. If you get a few unhappy players who have an agenda might not necessarily be about the manager, I might just be might be about something else. And then that starts to disrupt and create a bit of damage the heart of harmony within the team. So it might not be even directly linked to the manager. But that is something that the leadership needs to needs to work on.

Henry 15:31

So that would then so for me, what you've just kind of outlined is like the environmental elements, so you've outlined kind of organisation orientation? And who, who's involved in that? And is that anything to do with the manager in the dressing room? Or is that a higher up sort of hierarchy or structural element? Where you do have players that perhaps aren't associated with the club? And yes, is the manager is the foot on the ground to try and coax that person back into the, the, the the team and the unit? But if they've, if it's a new manager, or if it's, it's, we've already created that, that that environment already been created for them from a hierarchy or structural point of view, then it's, then it's there's very little that the manager can probably do in that scenario. And therefore, I would argue that it's not necessarily associated with losing the dressing room, or managers per se, this specific factor of losing the dressing room or leadership issue.

John 16:32

Can I just ask a couple of quick questions off of the back of the discussion here. So I think one of the points that you raised Henry around around, do you start with these elements of respect and trust and belief as you walk through the door? I think that's a good point. Because if we're defining, having the dressing room is having trust, and having respect and hovering belief in your manager, chances are, you might, you're probably going to give the new manager at the benefit of the doubt when they walk through the door. But how much belief you can really have in an individual that you've only just met, that's obviously got to grow over time. And things like respect as well, you obviously gain you obviously, given an amount of respect and an amount of trust to a new manager in every position, whether it's football or business or any kind of context. But obviously, that relationship grows over time. And that kind of you've got this baseline it can go in either direction. So I think that's that's an interesting point. Especially if you're thinking about this notion of losing a dressing room, if you How can you lose something you never really had in the first place if you're somebody like gap staff who's in and out of the door, before he's probably unpacked his suitcase,

Jay 17:42

De Boer at palace when you went in there and after, after two months of being there, the players were just completely like, what we can't do this for you. And that that persistence into a complete change a culture of playing style.

John 17:58

I think that comes on to the the second point I think around again, this is all kind of coming back to fit to a certain extent, but the the role of leaders within the team so I think one of the one of the famous examples of losing a dressing room that I came across when researching for this was Roy Hodgson, Blackburn Rovers and this is dating our experience of football somewhat, perhaps but apparently after about six months in the role, Tim Sherwood wanted to move to Tottenham and Hodgson said no, and he basically showed was a very influential figure in that dressing room. And kind of, I think everybody kind of openly admitted that he kind of turned the place reasonably toxic pretty quickly. He was club captain, had been there a long time knew all of the younger players had a lot of influence and was kind of that experience kind of, I don't know, kind of put a negative lens on every aspect of being involved in the club. And ultimately, Sherwood's relationship with hodgen kind of was the beginning of the end of that, that relationship and that's kind of a famous example of somebody potentially losing a dressing room. So I wondered how you think so, let's go back to the Frank de Boer and the Yep, Stan kind of examples. Were not not doing very well for the Dutch coaches this evening. If a club has bought a manager in, and the senior figures within that club, those senior players instantly, perhaps even before the managers walk through the door has decided that that manager isn't for them. How does that work in terms of like gaining trust and losing trust and winning a dressing room and losing a dressing room? What do you think on that? Well,

Henry 19:47

we see that a lot with recruitment, don't we in terms of like you say, the hierarchy potentially hiring someone which isn't a good fit or maybe doesn't fit the the club's culture Look at the mess that sort of run all current humans in Barcelona, like he, he took that job because he loves the club. He wants that job. But he's really been quite stitched up as me by the the situation that has gone into there. So you probably say, he probably wouldn't be the manager that Barcelona needed in regards to the level of supplies of God. But also, Barcelona couldn't afford anyone else at the moment, could they? So it's, it's a really tricky situation if, if one occurs and goes in there, and obviously, the players know is good manager. But you've got people like Messi, you've got people like, even like patri, to a certain extent, who is one of the best young players in the world. They're thinking what real acumen say Who is he really, what's he really done in, in management, the last time he was in Spain or Valencia, he completely completely bombed in me. So it's tricky, and managers probably do get stitched up quite a lot. But then they get paid a lot. So I don't really know where you guys stand on that. It's, it was kind of a poison Chalice for him. But no, you're right. It's sometimes a bit more a bit bigger than the manager, isn't it?

John 21:14

I think it depends on are we saying really, that, that? how important it is to get buy in from the players before appointing the manager in the first place that you can't you really can't appoint a manager without buying from the players, but then

Henry 21:28equally dangerous road to go down, isn't it? Isn't it

John 21:31

just but equally, if the players have that much, say and that much sway? I think you're talking about Barcelona, for example, here, I think, historically, that has been very much the impression that that the Barcelona dressing room has with the likes of Messi, I think wasn't it? Valverde that kind of crossed messy and was out the door pretty quickly. So. So yeah, it seems to be that, that having the player Well, obviously, having the players on board is from the get go is is a key component in winning that trust. I think the reason why I asked the question is I'm really trying to understand for my summary, and to think about how we kind of conclude this discussion in terms of the argument is, can you lose a dressing room? Do managers ever really lose a dressing room? And I think at the moment, the argument is, well, we're not entirely sure that they ever, ever have the dressing room. So that makes it makes it quite quite a tricky one to actually as to what to actually

Henry 22:37

thrown a spanner in the works, they're mostly just just a little

Jay 22:40

bit of it is, is to what extent you ever have the dressing room, isn't it? Maybe that's that's the real question, Does a head coach or a leader of a group ever really have 100% control of the dressing room in so to speak, there might be

John 22:56

And on that note,

Henry 22:56

well, I think it depends just just just quickly it when you're, and maybe there's something here that we're discussing in terms of management recruitment, in the sense of, you have an environment already created and the manager you select should fit the players you've got on the plane playing style, and the the culture and I think Barcelona did that very well for a period of time with Guardiola and players along and managers along that lines that have come up through the system, they've kind of gone away from that slightly or they're trying to still do that without the maybe the systems or the players we've seen perhaps other environments that have haven't perhaps reflected that and you see that at Manchester United with some of the managers that have come in so I think there's there's potentially something there in terms of managerial recruitment, and that then links to more kind of group cohesion style stuff and and in terms of the leadership that you are recruiting within within specific roles.

John 24:01

Okay, gents, lots lots to think about there. Let's take a very quick break, get our thoughts in order and then we can come back in a moment.

John 24:26

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John Okay, gents. So if we try and summarise this discussion, I think the big takeaway for me at the moment is that I'm not sure we can ever have a dressing room in the first place to lose. I think that's, that's been the real kind of spanner in the works that kind of has thrown my thinking, of course on this. I, I, yeah, I'm not I it's one of those things you you can see when it's there, when you can see when it's not that kind of trust or respect. I think you probably can lose a dressing room. I think when we look at that kind of example of the French national team boycotting training, players literally downing tools and saying, like, I'm not coming, or I'm going to train on my own or then hold Nicholas an example. That, to me is kind of, like collectively, that dressing room said, we're not doing it. So in that case, you can kind of say that really, it is possible to lose a dressing room. But I would say that's a ridiculously rare occurrence actually in sport that you fully lose the complete trust and support of a team. Equally, I think the example I gave at the beginning around Ian Holloway suggesting that perhaps you don't really lose his dressing room, I think. I think more often than not, you probably don't, and especially if you're a likeable character, like Holloway's, you probably get a lot of respect, like a lot of affection from players. But perhaps they don't. back, he was a manager, but they back he was a person and this, that this part of the problem here is trying to tease apart the person from the performer in the sense of them in a management role. So I, I don't think I can call a winner on this one at all. Because I don't think you can have a dressing room fully. And I don't think you can lose a dressing room. I think it's a continuum, and it's always in the middle. So I'm going to call this one a draw, if that's okay with you, too. Is there any other points? Or is there anything you kind of want to raise around? I know, Henry,

Henry 27:19

I mean, I'm arguing that you can't ever lose a dressing room. And you've just agreed with me slightly and

John 27:26

I can't draw? Well, you can't lose a dressing room.

Jay 27:29

If you don't have you don't have it?

John 27:31

Yeah, yeah, I think you waver down because like you down the continuum, you go from one end to the other without actually hitting the bumper, either end unless you're Raymond Dominic or

John 27:40

even, even even those examples, there was I think there was still one or two players, I don't think I think it depends on how we define, like, I don't think you can lose the whole dressing room, I think you can lose all but maybe a couple. But then there's, that's where it fits on this continuum, right that, that? Well, I'm not sure I'm maybe convincing myself to the opposite. Actually, maybe, maybe you could do something so atrocious that actually, everybody hates you. This probably happened, I'm just not sure of it.

Jay 28:12

I was just gonna say, if you're a really good manager, and everybody in your squad is happy than surely that's not right, either, as if everybody's happy, and you're gonna have some players that are happy to be not participating. So that wouldn't keep the level up to a certain extent, in some cases. I don't know what you guys quickly Think about that. Because that's, that can be quite dangerous at the other end of the continuum can that

Henry 28:34

I think it just stipulates what we mean by happy as well. If they're competent, and performing, then that's, and they're getting a paycheck and that kind of thing. It all boils down to coach athlete relationship. And I think some of the stuff that we've mentioned, links to co orientation elements to that in terms of agreement similarity to diverse coaching perspectives to tactics, just that element of bond. And agreement of we're doing the right thing here and that kind of side of things. So I think if it takes time for us to build that relationship, then it takes time also to lose it.

John 29:19

I think maybe Jay and I think there's similar examples of people like Pochettino and Klopp. Where they seem to have a bond with their players. But all of a sudden, that clock with Dortmund, yeah, they're not necessarily they lost a bond with their players. But the players just stopped believing in their ability to maybe take them on to the next level or to maybe fulfil the goal that they've kind of set us out. And again, I think the multifaceted nature of the dressing room and the individuals within it the goals that each individual has the relationships each individual house, not only with each other as players but also the manager. It just makes this it's too complicated to be Binary is one way or the other. So I don't think you can ever lose the dressing room I think so I am more on your side of this. But I still I'm not entirely sure I think it's probably possible that you could lose the whole dressing room Don't get me wrong I think if a manager was going around and having affairs with all of his players wives that's that's not going to go down particularly well. But it just doesn't happen does it? So I think it's possible we just don't have too many examples. So if I had to choose a winner,

Henry 30:27

we don't have the examples at the top level because we're speaking specifically quite about high performance sport here. I'm sure a lower level grassroots level you would have them there might be elements that things of you saying in terms of losing the dressing room, john, but I then again, again, maybe that links a little bit more to

John 30:48

some mega Lothario.



I mean that the doesn't necessarily link to the whole kind of group cohesion leadership, they knew we were kind of discussing, but yeah.


31:02Especially when players want to be there to enjoy the particular sport they're playing in at an elite level. They're like Henry said, there's plenty of other factors that would make you stick at what you're doing. Because it's your job. It's your job. It's your occupation, you're getting paid for it. It's your professional. Pride. Yeah, exactly. So and you need to keep up your standards, because it might be your next club might be looking at you thinking, What's this guy? gonna be like if he comes into our group? So I had Henry Scott, and in that regard,

John 31:32

Okay, gents, I think we will call it there, Henry. half a point. I'm kind of more on your side at this then than anything, I think. But I'm not 100% convinced. So. A huge thank you to both of you guys. Thank you very much, Jay. Thank you, Henry. And we will be back in two weeks time for another sports debate. Thanks, everyone. Thank you all. Thank you.

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