10 June 2015

Next Rangers Manager: Delivering Success

by Alex Oliver | Contributor

The next manager of Rangers has perhaps the biggest rebuilding job in the history of the club- well since the opportunity was missed three years ago. But put that to one side, this is a blank canvas; eleven players have departed Ibrox with their contracts not up for renewal. The next manager will have to replace these players–and improve upon them too. So what will make the next manager successful? Of course signing new players will play a major role, but that is the bread and butter–successful football management runs far deeper than merely signing new players. This blog will offer some insight into what will make someone successful in football management.

Whilst football manager may be a fun way to spend a couple of hours on any given evening each week, it has given birth to the self-proclaimed expert who seems to think this idea of football management is easy. A computer screen and a few mouse clicks make it seem so; just to demonstrate it I’ve taken Rangers to Champions League success. The systems involved in football management are more complex than computer simulations. It is a web of relationships which are holistic in their nature; they need to be viewed as a whole. The diagram included comes from Cruikshank & Collins (2015) and is based on research surrounding Bolton Wanderers.

This diagram demonstrates the complexity of the interactions involved in a standard football club.
Credit to Cruikshank for diagram.
Taken from Lecture given at
University of Edinburgh Feb 2015.
(Click to expand.)
Each arrow is double ended indicating the relationship between the parties. Note: there is no performance director / director of football / transfer committee. One envisages that such would fit ‘above’ the manager and ‘below’ the board of directors. This would somewhat disrupt the upward management which is usually seen in a successful football manager. This relates to their ability to manipulate the board to get what they want. It is worth nothing, however, this relationship can differ on the ownership style, for example, oligarch owners may have less room for compromise.

Whilst much debate has been had for transactional versus transformational leadership styles in elite level football it has only been relatively recent that a new alternative has been put forward. This can be attributed for a failure for these off-the-shelf styles to account for dark arts involved in football management.

In other words, being a leader with a focus on a transactional style or a transformational style is not sufficient for football management in the 21st century. Adopting these dark traits is required for successful culture change- something which commonly occurs following a managerial change.

The next manager will be entrusted with revolutionising the culture at the club to effectively deploy this- he will have to tap into dark behaviours. (I talked about culture in a previous blog which you can read here).

In order to bring about this idea of culture change the new manager may wish to consider the following techniques. These techniques have been ground out through thorough research in the area. I’ve brought two forward which appeared to be somewhat lacking in recent times. Adapted from Cruikshank & Collins (2015).

The creation of performance related ruthlessness: This is something not adhered to in previous regimes which was undoubtedly a contributing reason to our downfall in the season just gone. This meant that standards slipped and less than adequate performances became acceptable. Performance related ruthlessness means that no matter who the player is, the manager does not compromise and will drop those who do not fulfill expectations set in them. The phrase no man is bigger than the club is appropriate here.

Social dominance: The manager effectively sets the agenda which should be publicly supported and subscribed to by all members of support staff. If they do not subscribe to the manager’s ideas for culture change, well… the manager could just be booting them out the door! This may seem rather extreme, but when trying to create a culture and implement culture change everyone in the coaching side–and indeed other support staff–such as physiotherapists–needs to be seen to be pulling in the same direction.

As I touched upon in my last entry, the dressing room politics plays a massive role in the success or failure of a manager. Cultural architects (Railo ref) must be identified and the manager must get these players on side. These players are then used to relay information to the team and get them subscribed to the manager’s ideas. Moreover, cultural architects may also be used to manipulate or dislodge players who are deemed to be disruptive.

Given the depletion of the current squad, the new manager will form his own squad over the coming weeks- and this will somewhat help in this regard.

Of course we have to establish a new scouting network- and create a signing philosophy. This, however, should be given to the manager to decide and dictate. The club and perspective managers have met and discussed plans on taking us forward; so the new manager will be compatible with the board’s view for direction. We have to acknowledge and indeed embrace the individual, his (or her) ideas, philosophies and their culture.

To deploy this, an individual will have to dip into elements which some may consider unsavoury, but these are completely necessary for 21st century football management. Management is multi-dimensional and successful management requires drawing on several constructs. These have to be controlled and manipulated; these go far beyond elements which are related to the playing side- just look back to the diagram.

A manager who deploys both dark and light behaviours of leadership will elicit the optimum performance from his team and beyond. The success of the next Rangers manager will be judged upon whether he successfully can implement a culture change- and whether that culture is conducive of positive football performances. If this is successfully implemented Rangers will be in a strong position to be back challenging in their rightful place.

From Alex's Psychologically Rangers blog.


Cruickshank, A., & Collins, D. (2015). Illuminating and Applying “The Dark Side”: Insights From Elite Team Leaders. Journal of Applied Sports Psychology, 0, 1-19.

Ridley, I (2002). Cultural architects and the leaders of men. The Guardian (Online) available from:http://www.theguardian.com/football/2002/may/19/worldcupfootball2002.sport7