Discipline And Organisation In Football: is it still important in the modern game?

I have been in football for nearly 40 years yet do the same standards and ethos apply? One of English football’s greatest managers Sir Alex Ferguson operated on these principles and never deviated throughout his managerial career. In his book Leading with Michael Moritz.

Credit: Andrea Sartorati

“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 the stage for anarchy.”

I personally have always placed great emphasis on the key aspects of discipline and Organisation during my football career as member of the backroom staff “the team behind the team” working various levels of the game. In order to help all the managers I have worked with and other members of staff and the players that ultimately the club can achieve success.

Discipline and Organisation should be maintained throughout the Managers time in charge for the long term, but all too often we certain aspects abandoned in the ‘shire-horse’ approach which culminates in success or failure. Poor discipline off the pitch will ultimately carry on to the pitch.

When a new manager is appointed, players are often quoting ‘How different it is now’ i.e. we are now ready to start training at 10.30 instead of 10.45: mobile telephones are banned in the dressing room and all players must wear slides and not walk around in bare feet whilst showering and in the dressing/treatment room. A list of rules get printed and various fines implemented. The team starts winning football matches again, unbeaten runs start and with it certain aspects of discipline and organisation gets abandoned.

For example: late start to training, a mobile going off, players not wearing slides, turning up late for the team coach, dress code not being maintained and the list goes on. Give players an inch they will take a yard. To the point they start losing. Arthur Cox the former Newcastle United and Derby County Manager once said to his Physio “players will take the milk out your tea and still come back for the sugar.’ The sloppy approach is in danger of being carried over to the training ground whereas a strong disciplined unit go out and train the way they hope to play. If discipline is maintained it gives the team the platform to push again and come through any inconsistent period. Managers like the late Bertie Mee, George Graham, Brian Clough And Arsene Wenger maintained these principles regardless of results and I do not mean they rule with a rod of steel. It is just standards to what you would expect from any football manager really.

Credit: Rob Mieremet / Anefo – Nationaal Archief Fotocollectie Anefo

I was working for a semi-pro club that had achieved a reasonable level of suucess only to see its level of achievement collapse like a pack of cards due to lack of discipline. For example: training on a Tuesday and Thursday evenings started at 6.30 pm. Any players who were late were told by the Physio where to go- to the 3G pitch or gym. Then for whatever reason they started waiting for individuals to arrive and instead of being out and ready for 6.30 it was nearer 7 O’clock.

When travelling to games clubs should always travel as a team and come back as a team players are often making the own way from away games and often collecting the cars the next day which is not conductive to togetherness.

One manager of a well known football club was on a losing streak and had previously won the league, played in Europe and won the League Cup Final. He called for a meeting of his backroom staff and gave them an open floor to voice their opinions on what they thought was wrong. The manager had realised that unless the situation changed quickly he would possibly be ‘sacked’ after winning only one of the last nine games. At this meeting a member of staff told the manager that he could not believe the lack of discipline at the club. The manager’s response was ‘You are right. It is my fault. I hold my hands up. I have got start to instill discipline again”. Unfortunately it was too late as a week later he was sacked.

Basic discipline should be set in stone and not deviated in any shape or form and never be underestimated. Compare the discipline imposed by most German clubs and which existed for many years in Italy and the discipline in our own clubs. Everything in those countries begins with discipline. It starts by being on time for meetings. Every little detail where they take nothing for granted. Standards are set in from an early stage and the is an importance of self discipline which is instilled on the Continent. That usually means before teenage years having a big say in things until youngsters have hit the rebellious stage. Over hear they become scholars and in lacking early guidance too often follow an influential personality, like sheep, for good or more likely bad.

Credit: Pexel

On the continent it is taken for granted that in success or failure certain rules apply and are fulfilled.

We see a lot of Premier League Manager’s not wearing club suits and ties Burnley manager Sean Dyche one being an exception to the rule. Last weekend I and many more could not believe the appearance and dress code of a league Two club getting off the team coach prior to an away FA Cup tie.

If footballers think they are above the manager’s control there is only one word ‘Goodbye’. Sir Alex Ferguson.

Charity work, prize presentations, an occasional speech are all factors expected as is surely prompt arrival for training/ matches and the tactical disciplines put forward by the coaches are rarely challenged or questioned. The has to be a mutual respect between management and staff. Of course, it’s made easy for this system to operate by success on the field of play but this system; should operate with or without success. In reality I am not sure this is the case.

I believe the basis of Achievement is brilliant organisation. Attention to detail, however small, strict team discipline and a good degree of self- discipline in any team’s success. Discipline – Organisation – will not guratee success but will certainly give you the platform to achieve it.

Standards are standards and Right is Right.

Poor attention to detail will ultimately play a part in the manager being relieved of his position.

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