Alan Biggs: Ex Owls skipper is the true visionary

Alan Bigg Telegraph
Alan Bigg Telegraph

Say you had to monitor traffic flows on the M1. Where would you stand? On a bridge across the motorway with the height to view from both directions? Or from the hard shoulder as traffic whizzed past?

The question answers itself. So why do football managers prefer to peer through a blur of hurtling bodies, some of which are obscured because others are in the way?

This is a question for which there seems no logical answer. But maybe former Sheffield Wednesday captain Nigel Pearson, now in charge of promotion-chasing Leicester, has a clearer view on it than most.

For most of this season Pearson has been doing it the old-fashioned way, watching from the stand. And it appears to be working.

Trends can start almost by accident. In the late 1980s it was then Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish’s preference for standing on the touchline, later adopted by Ron Atkinson in his first spell with the Owls, that started a new fashion.

Maybe the same can apply in reverse. It was only Pearson’s one-match touchline ban in September that fully opened his eyes.

He’s stayed in the stand for most of the time since and, while he doesn’t rule out a regular return to pitch side, he admits the elevation gives him “a better overall perspective, especially on team shapes and tactical awareness.”

Which should surprise none of us who’ve looked down on the action all our lives! It’s amazing that more managers don’t do it – but there’s time.

Personally, I think the era of the standing boss became a macho thing. Standing up to take the flak and appearing to be driving your team on by your presence.

Gradually it also became accepted that this was part of the spectacle of football as entertainment.

But it has counted unfairly against those managers who display a cerebral approach rather than behaving like circus chimpanzees.

Let’s all go back to go forward. Yes? No?

Stu’s impact is working

This column has never been a convert to the cult of the caretaker manager. Too many have flattered to deceive; too many fleeting revivals have fizzled out.

But credit to Stuart Gray. His impact since replacing Dave Jones at Sheffield Wednesday has mirrored his initial influence after arriving as coach last season. The tightening up process (writing ahead of the Wigan game last night) has been very similar.

Why the side sagged so alarmingly in the interim as Gray worked alongside Jones is one of those mysteries that make me ever more cautious about the early success of caretakers.

But take nothing away from Gray – or chairman Milan Mandaric for keeping an open mind. Those who suggest the chairman is (1) totally intent on the “cheap option” and (2) has lost his interest in the club are wide of the mark.

What’s best for Wednesday is best for Mandaric and vice versa. Neither can afford relegation because they are one and the same.

I’d be surprised if Mandaric sees Gray as the long-term option at this stage. Don’t doubt that he will act if the wheels start wobbling again. And, in considering an appointment to the end of the season, the chairman has to be careful about removing incentives that are working, especially when it comes to the response of the players. But full marks to Gray and Lee Bullen for infusing the team with a much tougher mentality that has to be sustained.

Passion counts for very little to the players

The calm, collected way in which Nigel Clough has steadied Sheffield United brings us right back to where this column started. Clough isn’t the most animated or talkative – but what he says and does counts. He gets his points across without fuss.

Here’s a telling excerpt from the excellent Tony Kenworthy autobiography “Blade Heart,” published this year.

The former United defender writes: “Fans love to see a manager showing passion but I can tell you from very good experience that players don’t take a lot of notice during the heat of battle. I always had enough on my plate concentrating on what was going on around me to pay attention to what was happening on the touchline. I often used the excuse that I couldn’t hear the manager’s voice above the crowd and that was often the case. But, in truth, I wasn’t really listening and I’m sure that’s the same for footballers today.”

Talking books, I can thoroughly recommend another with a Blades bent – “The Man from Uruguay,” which charts the story of the late Danny Bergara’s pioneering excursion into English football.

Written by Phil Brennan, who worked with Danny during his magical spell at Stockport County, it is available to order from;- www.dannybergara.co.uk

Owlerton is still the dogs

Owlerton Stadium has been in the news for the return of Sheffield Eagles, but let’s not forget it is thriving in its primary role as a greyhound track. It takes pride in the staging of the final of the national Inter-Track Championship on Monday afternoon.

* Apologies for cancellation last night of Lee Bullen’s book signing but Bully got his priorities spot on by refusing to be distracted from preparing the Owls first team.