Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 December 2014

Older managers' talent being wasted, says Clark

Former Nottingham Forest and Manchester City boss Frank Clark believes valuable experience is being lost to football because older managers are perceived to be "past it".

This week, Arsenal's Arsene Wenger celebrates his 60th birthday. But Clark believes the trend for appointing younger men - often former players - to high-profile jobs is not always the best option.

Clark, himself a former Forest and Newcastle player who began his coaching career at Leyton Orient, wants to see the vast knowledge base of former managers utilised more.

"Some managers may be perceived as too old or past it and yet would still make a very valuable contribution to a football club - but there are only 92 [clubs]," the vice-chairman of the League Managers' Association told Press Association Sport.

"There is no doubt people are discarded too early, and there is a great well of knowledge out there that is being wasted. There is a massive wastage of knowledge in football.

"A lot of people who have this wealth of experience can be used in some of capacity; as a mentor helping younger managers or in executive positions in clubs advising directors, who basically know very little about the game itself.

"It doesn't seem to happen for some reason. There aren't many ex-technical people in any kind of capacity above the role of manager."

Clark reports the LMA and the Football Association are looking into ways of using former managers as mentors but accepts the idea of having an experienced man come into a club is not readily welcomed by younger managers.

"We have to educate the younger managers about the value of mentoring," he added.

"A lot of these younger managers are probably paranoid about having a wise old head sitting around the club somewhere in case it costs them their job. They may be looking over their shoulders a little bit.

"It is an educational problem. We need to educate the whole game from top to bottom of the possible values of having these elder statesmen trying to help."

Clark would also prefer to see younger managers, especially ex-professionals, learn their trade in the lower leagues but admits the lure of a high-profile job is usually too much to turn down.

"We do need to encourage the young managers to come in and move up the scale," he said.

"Too often in the past we have thought, because someone was a good player, they would automatically be a good manager.

"They would be playing one day and given a top job the next day, without any kind of preparation and development.

"More often than not they failed. But statistics show at least 50% of people who fail in their first job go on to get another one.

"Sometimes people get jobs, and it is too early for them. We need to encourage them to come into the profession and work their way up.

"They need to find out what the job entails and try to get as much knowledge and preparation about the job before they actually start.

"Then they have a better chance of being successful and staying in the game and getting into a good position like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene.

"Ideally it would be better for managers to start in the lower leagues - that is the way it used to be - but if someone offers you a job at a Premier League club you are going to take it.

"You might go into the lower divisions and do what might be a very difficult job and be perceived to have failed and not come back again.

"Don't get me wrong - it is a tough old job in the lower divisions. But there is less of a media spotlight, and possibly more space to develop yourself."

Clark paid tribute to the contribution Wenger has made to the English game in particular.

"He has been a fantastic manager. His teams have always played in a way which is very pleasing on the eye, and he has never wavered in his beliefs," he said.

"The key is, as you get older, to retain your enthusiasm. As we get older, we get wiser - but as we get older, we sometimes don't have the energy to fight the battles or whatever needs to be done.

"You pick up vast knowledge along the way. But if you retain a youthful enthusiasm for the job and getting out on the training ground every day, then that is key."

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