Are football managers really ‘all that’ in 2012?

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TWO themes emerged from Sheffield United’s annual general meetings last weekend.

One, that the implications of Salary Cost Management Protocol are still filtering through to shareholders. Two, some of those present viewed being third in the League One table as cause for concern.

Having bored myself senseless - and doubtless a fair few readers too - harping on about this new financial legislation over the past few months, the second topic pricked my interest the most.

Not because of a burning desire to make some sort of judgement call. Football fans, including yours truly, can be a pretty demanding bunch.

But rather because it quickly became apparent how much power supporters invest in their manager. If you had done ‘this’, Danny Wilson was told on several occasions during an otherwise extremely amiable Q&A, then ‘that’ would inevitably have followed.

There can be no doubt that Wilson, or the rest of the managerial fraternity, are hugely important figures at their respective clubs.

Do they, though, really enjoy that much influence over results? The answer is both yes and no.

Jose Mourinho. Pep Guardiola. N0-one can be in any doubt that we live in the age of the ‘uber coach.’

Individuals apparently blessed with the ability to dictate events beyond most folks’ control. Supposedly capable of moving their charges around the pitch like pieces on a chessboard. Overcoming minor irritations like free will and fallibility.

Creations, however, of a media desperate to discover ‘personalities’ beneath the sponsorship and PR gloss now coating the game. And those who refuse to acknowledge the human aspect of sport.

Wilson and Richie Barker, whose Crawley Town side host United tomorrow, operate on an entirely different plane to their continental counterparts.

But their work is analysed in exactly the same fashion.

There can be few lonelier jobs in football. Or bizarre.

Why? Because managers are everything and nothing at exactly the same time.

Yes, they dictate tactics. Get inside their players’ minds. Construct squads with a fairly free hand.

But, when the whistle blows, they are forced to place their fate in the hands, or feet, of others. And most while knowing full well that even if things do work-out, they are unlikely to receive any credit.

“Lose, and it’s because I’m c**p at my job,” former United chief Neil Warnock once told then assistant Stuart McCall. “Win, and it’s because you are a b****y good coach.”

The very best, whether they be in League One or the Primera Liga, do share two things in common though.

An appreciation of their employers’ history. Even more importantly, a clear vision about how football should be played be it on the deck or in the air.

Which is why it was encouraging to hear Wilson insist that under his tutelage United will always try and pass their way to promotion.

Even if, at times, it is with varying degrees of success.