Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Paul Scholes – Setting an Example?

Paul Scholes resigned from his position as manager of Oldham Athletic last week, after barely over a month in charge of the club. While it came as something of a shock to many fans, after all of the effort the Manchester United legend had to go to just to secure the job in the first place, it may set a precedent for his future in management.

The Story

It was almost too good to be true. After spending years as one of the best midfielders in the world, and with a trophy cabinet fit to burst, Paul Scholes was going to take charge of his boyhood club. While many had always expected him to make the transition into management, his leadership and knowledge of the game have rarely been questioned, few expected him to be taking charge of a League Two side.

It wasn’t exactly a straightforward appointment either, due to his involvement as part-owner of Salford City FC. It had to be approved by the EFL board, who put a number of conditions in place to stop Scholes from exploiting this new position. All in all it turned out to be a little more complicated than many people expected.

However when the appointment was finally announced, and he took over as manager, there was a buzz around the club that had not been felt in a very long time – if ever. Players, fans and club staff were all excited to see what the 11 time Premier League winner would bring to the table, in the world of management.

The Fallout

After seven games in charge (one win, three draws and three losses), Scholes resigned from his position as manager via a WhatsApp message, going on to explain that it had “become clear I would not be able to operate as I intended and was led to believe.” While it was surprising at the time, the club’s recent troubles weren’t exactly unknown, and as more time passes following his resignation, the more it becomes evident that Scholes made the right choice.

The big question here, is could this be setting an example as to how Scholes will approach any subsequent management opportunities that come his way? It’s certainly not something we’ve seen very often from club managers. While it’s common for the board, or the owner, to make a number of promises that they will ultimately not follow through on in their hunt for a new manager, it’s extremely rare for a manager to then resign when these promises are reneged on.

Obviously in this case there were some issues that ran a lot deeper within the club (players washing their own kits, the club bus not turning up, electricity being turned off), however it could set an interesting standard going forwards. It also brings up an interesting question – should managers do more to hold owners accountable for failing to follow through on their promises?

Often the manager of a football club can bear the brunt of a fan’s anger, they can be blamed for a multitude of different failures, and almost always are – even when it isn’t entirely their own fault. They struggle to deliver the results that the fans are expecting, in return the fans the begin to expect investment in the squad, and when that fails to come it can once again be the manager that is axed. The Paul Scholes approach could start to shift that blame higher up, to what can often be the real cause of the problem.

Rafael Benitez has suffered through three years of Mike Ashley’s false promises, and despite pushing the squad he has even further than anyone thought possibly, the club could face losing their manager at the end of the season – a driving factor behind this is Ashley’s lack of investment, and failure to deliver on a number of different promises.

We could be finally seeing a shift in the mentalities of managers. No longer just the scapegoat for any and all issues at a club, but beginning to reveal where the real blame lies in a number of cases. This could be the beginning of a big shift in the way we perceive our sport. And it might just start with Paul Scholes

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