At the recent inaugural European Managers & Coaches Forum - hosted by the League Managers Association (LMA) and Castrol, the official performance partner of the LMA - a group of some of the world's most high-profile football bosses gathered at England's St George's Park to discuss the important issues affecting the sport in the 21st Century.
The forum brought together the likes of Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson, England manager Roy Hodgson, former Three Lions chief Fabio Capello, Liverpool counterpart Brendan Rodgers and LMA chairman Howard Wilkinson to name just five from a list of attendees who have more than 15,000 matches of combined experience.
When you are a learner you are always trying to learn from those at the leading edge. So the challenge for the coaches in this country in Britain is that you are playing against different stylesBrendan Rodgers
Over the course of two days, the gathering, supported by other guests, including Mike Riley, general manager of the Professional Game Match Official Ltd (PGMOL), was devoted to the sharing of insight and discussion for all factors which impact the modern football manager.
Here, Sky Sports gains a unique insight into the European Managers & Coaches Forum and concludes a series of Q&A interviews with Brendan Rodgers and Celtic boss Neil Lennon.
You have both committed yourself to learning from an early age. How important is it for senior managers to meet with younger managers and share their extensive knowledge?
Brendan Rodgers: Well, I think it is brilliant. I think it is great that so many managers both young and old with different experiences can come together and share that. Certainly for someone like myself as a young manager, fairly new in to it, it is brilliant for me to be around the people that are at the Forum and hopefully learn from them, which I have done. So, I think for us to do this on a regular basis would be fantastic.
Brendan, you have spent a lot of time studying the game abroad. How do you think other leagues compare to what is experienced in English football?
Brendan Rodgers: I think where we are fortunate here in Britain is with the diverse nature of the teams. Michael Laudrup mentioned it earlier and it is something that when you study and when you look at the game abroad, both in Holland and in Spain, in particular, the teams pretty much play the same. So, the tactics for each game will more-or-less be the same. When you are playing in Scotland or you are playing in England, the diversity of the teams you come up against challenges a coach. So, you have got to find different ways and different solutions to win games. I think that is the great part of the game in this country. Of course, when you are a learner you are always trying to learn from those at the leading edge. So the challenge for the coaches in this country in Britain is that you are playing against different styles. All the studying I have ever done and having been abroad to different clubs, they play pretty much the same playing philosophy right the way through, which has its own strengths. But certainly for us as coaches in this country, we have got some brilliant managers both young and old who are very keen and enthusiastic to do well. Obviously that always presents you with a challenge every time you take a team and work.
How do you see football changing over the next 10 years?
Neil Lennon: I think Barcelona set the template. It is a dangerous template, because I think a lot of managers strive to play like that. I think you have to understand the culture that you are playing in. Like Brendan says, there is a great variation and diversity in England and pretty similar styles in maybe Italy and Spain. I think the game will get quicker. I think the players will be, all round, technically better. I think style might change, it might not. It will depend, you know? Jose Mourinho brought a new, revolutionary style to the game roundabout the middle of the decade. Pep Guardiola has kicked on from that with his style of football. France had their cycle in the late 90s. Then maybe an English team, or an English manager or an English club, preferably Brendan, an Irish manager, even, who may set the template for the game over the next 10 years. The game is in good shape, I think. I think it is pretty exciting. I think what we are seeing now in terms of the current Barcelona team and the current Spanish team are probably the best footballing teams I have seen, ever, with Lionel Messi arguably the greatest player ever. So, that is what we all strive to be now. We cannot all be that way. We have to cultivate our own styles. But, I think we all like to play the game in the right manner and the right way and in an attractive way.
Brendan Rodgers: I think I will just back-up and tell you what Neil has said. I think in the game there is no rocket science in football. I have listened to Bill Shankly since I have been in at Liverpool and when I listen to Bill Shankly talk on the CDs, you would think he was the current Barcelona manager, because of how he played the game with Liverpool. I just think the game is based on the top players at the leading age of the game. As a coach, you are teaching your players and you are trying to win games. But the game is normally coached and based around the best player and best teams and you will go through cycles of that. So, as Neil said, you had the French team at that time and everyone went for big, powerful, pacey players who were strong. You look at the Liverpool team back in the 70s and 80s and they set the standard, 'the Liverpool way', that was the leading light. You look at the modern era, you look at Barcelona, look at Brazil in the 70s... So, the game will always be based on the leading players and the leading teams and I think, as Neil rightly said, every year the Premier League gets quicker and obviously techniques improve and tactics improve.
Barcelona set the template. It is a dangerous template, because I think a lot of managers strive to play like that. I think you have to understand the culture that you are playing inNeil Lennon
Of those topics being debated at the Forum, which were of particular interest to you?
Brendan Rodgers: I really enjoyed the managerial one. It is what opened your eyes in terms of the reality of the game as a manager - where statistically it is 1.7 in terms of years that you can be in a job. That statistic does not lie. It is a very intense and a very difficult job. I enjoyed listening to people like Sir Alex (Ferguson) and just getting from them that this is a very difficult business. Howard Wilkinson as well, who has been a manager for many years and very successful. So, it really opens your eyes and hits you that we are in a very difficult job. You have to prepare as much as you possibly can in relation to having longevity in the game and that is what we all crave for as young managers. We want to be around, hopefully, for the next 20-odd years. In order to do that, you have to have success. So, I felt it was poignant in terms of making sure that people are prepared. Guys like Neil are very unique. A wonderful player and he has really learnt on the job and done a fantastic job whilst doing it in preparing himself for the position. So, I think that is very important for up-and-coming managers to understand that there are no shortcuts. You have to prepare yourself well both on and off the field. If you can do that, it does not guarantee yourself success but it gives you an opportunity.
Neil Lennon: I obviously enjoyed the one Brendan has touched on. I also enjoyed the one on how the game has evolved in the Premier League over the last 10 years. The passing statistics and then our predictions for the way the game is going in the future. That was quite an open conversation in terms of, for example, there was a clip of Barcelona scoring a goal against Villarreal with 38 passes before they scored and the amount of passes each season - the way it has improved, the intensity runs, the physical side of the game, the technical side of the game and the psychological side of the game. That was a really interesting conversation that everyone had an input to and everyone had their own ideas on how they wanted to take the game forward. All the topics were relevant to what I am doing and I am sure what Brendan's doing as well, even the Financial Fair Play for the future in European football. So, I will take a little bit of everything from each of the topics discussed.
Brendan Rodgers and Neil Lennon were talking at the Castrol/LMA European Managers & Head Coaches Forum 2013