Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Insight into Big Sam including transcendental meditation

Today I met Sam Allardyce (Big Sam) at the London Business Forum in Southwark, London

The business seminar entitled The 90 Minute Manager gave a great insight to Big Sam the football manager and the person.

He described himself in the middle of the West Ham management structure but a person who is very good at managing upwards. He expanded that managing upwards is critical but also he has to adjust to each owner's ways. He was none too complimentary about Mike Ashley at Newcastle who he said ran Newcastle like his Sports direct empire in the beginning.

He said whether he is sacked or leaves West Ham on his own terms he hopes he leaves West Ham better organised and better structured when he finally walks away.

He said his first job when he joined West Ham was to stop the football back room staff redundancies. He said that too many back room staff were being cut by the senior management. He made it clear it had to stop and he would decide the level of back room staff.

He suggested the back room staff needed to increase which did not go down well but he agreed to take one less player in the squad if that was required to get the right level of football related support staff.

He explained that proper communication and managing people was crucial in football management and it wasn't just about football experience.

When he joined he said the support staff were very demotivated but highly skilled, he interviewed every player and asked them outright whether they wanted to stay.

He hinted several big players wanted out but changed their minds later.

He said recruitment is massive priority in football but there was no recruitment policy or data when he arrived at West Ham.

He bought four year's of personal data on players with him when he joined the club.

He said he believed physiological profiling of players was useful. He appointed former footballer & manager turned sports psychologist Lee Richardson to back room team who he described as a crucial member of the team.

He said the average life of a championship manager is 12 months or 1.4 years for a premiership manager. Anything above that you are doing well as a manager.

He said it is important that the players want to work for you, building relationships with the support staff and players is crucial, everyone must get respect and feel comfortable in their role in the club. Everyone is important, even Pete the kit man. Some times the kit man can see a perspective no-one else sees.

He joked he encourages ideas, opinions and openness as long as they come round to his way of thinking in the end. The players need to trust the manager but they also need to trust the support staff. Players will quickly find out the manager who doesn't know what he is doing.

When asked about coping with pressure and the media he said Alastair Campbell was a good friend and had coached him on handling the media.

The spin doctor told him to answer tricky questions with a different answer to confuse the journalists.

He said 'Big Sam' is a deliberate brand he created and he plays to that Big Sam brand image.

He said he now enjoys tricky media questions as he prepares for them in advance.

When asked about the England job he said he needed to get West Ham promoted to stand any chance of being considered for the England manager's job.

On recruitment he said most managers do not recruit back room staff well, they mainly recruit their mates rather than the best people for the job.

He was asked about work/life balance in light of his previous health scares.

He said it was important to take time out, his tan was testament to that!, to delegate well (Wally Downes was running training in his absence) and to keep blood pressure down as that is the real killer.

He confessed he uses transcendental meditation and has his own mantra which takes 30 mins.

He claimed  his mantra is as good a 9 hour sleep.

When asked about young English players he blamed Maggie Thatcher and her government change in Sports Education policy in making England way behind other countries in developing young talent. He said that policy harmed English football in being too diverse in the sports disciplines which need to be covered.

He also said parental commitment was very important, he said his son drives his grand son to Manchester United several times per week but this would be very difficult for single parents.

He said you have to brave enough as a football manager to say you were wrong but joked he rarely is.

He said his job is to create a stable environment for the West Ham players at the training ground away from the craziness of the media. There is no over reaction after a disappointment just a discussion.

There is analysis of what went wrong  but it is important not to over react as it is self defeating.

He said it is equally important not to over react to success and get complacent.

The players must have some anxiety and a little fear before each game to keep that edge.

He doesn't agree in knee jerk reactions to please the media, owners or fans.

He said athletics and speed has increased in recent years with an average player running 2.5Km more every match.

He said each West Ham player wears a GPS tracker on his neck during training which supplies live data to a laptop so his staff can see who is not working hard enough, who is unfit and sometimes this can pinpoint early illness like colds and flu.

He said he found it bizarre that FIFA did not embrace new technology and suggested goal line technology and GPS live data should be brought into the beautiful game.

His final question was what 3 things make a great Football manager.

1)  Ambition:  He claimed his ambition is greater than any club he has managed.

2) Job Satisfaction: A team that delivers what has been targeted by owners and fans.

3) Publicity: Someone who feels comfortable in the lime light and media pressure

I was very impressed by the man and can see why the two Davids gave him the job.

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