The making of a leader

Strong personality: Michael Doyle will be Sheffield United's skipper on Sunday at Hillsborough.                      Picture: Steve parkin
Strong personality: Michael Doyle will be Sheffield United's skipper on Sunday at Hillsborough. Picture: Steve parkin

THEY are the players traditionally charged with rousing the troops.

The men to whom 20 team mates and over 36,000 supporters will look towards for inspiration when Sunday’s Steel City derby explodes into life.

So what exactly does being an effective captain entail? And why does English football in particular bestow the armband with such symbolism and power?

Sheffield United’s Michael Doyle, who is expected to assume the role for the visitors at Hillsborough this weekend, will be required to strike a balance between focusing on his own game and ensuring those around him are equipped to perform according to injured predecessor Chris Morgan.

“People outside see you as a leader,” Morgan, United’s player-coach, said. “But to be an effective team you need to have 11 leaders out there on the pitch and not just one.

“Everyone approaches the job differently. I don’t think you necessarily have to be vocal because there are good captains who are very quiet individuals.

“One aspect I always thought was important was communicating the manager’s orders on the pitch if something needs changing. The most important thing, I think, is that you have to lead by example.”

The responsibilities of a captain vary according to discipline. Andrew Gale, Yorkshire’s youngest of the post-war era, told The Star that in cricket they are required to be both leaders and tacticians.

“You have to be able to lead from the front in terms of your performances,” he said. “But, in my sport, you also have to know how to set a field and decide who bowls at what end and when.”

“Whatever game you play, though, the demands on the captain increase the higher-up in terms of standard you go,” added Gayle.

“My idea of an effective captain before I took the job was someone who was honest, relaxed, focused, positive and who did as he says. I still think they are the core traits but what I have learnt is saying them and doing them are two completely different things when the pressure is on.”

Professor Ian Maynard, of Sheffield Hallam University’s Centre for Sport and Exercise Science, said: “The interesting thing for me is the process by which a manager will choose their captain. Do they pick someone who has a similar personality to themselves or do they pick someone who is completely different so they don’t clash?

“What people perceive to be a good captain would seem to change from culture to culture and from sport to sport.”

Morgan, who is combining coaching duties with his rehabilitation from a serious knee injury, believes communication is another essential ingredient. Both in the heat of battle and during training in between games.

“It’s a position that I’m very proud to have had,” he said. “You have responsibilities not just to colleagues in the dressing room but also to represent the club.”

Twitter @JamesShield1