There have been plenty of fresh experiences for football managers all over the world in recent months as they came to terms with the ‘new normal’ that came about as one of the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic…
Whether it was the training in lockdown of last year, the new safety protocols, or the isolation that comes as a result of a positive COVID-19 test – to themselves or within their ranks.
The Sheffield Wednesday manager is no stranger to his current situation, having been forced to isolate during his time at Doncaster Rovers, but he admits that it’s still a very strange situation to be in.
We asked the Owls boss – who was named as the Championship’s Manager of the Week – how his new matchday experience plays out as he prepares to endure it one last time against Queens Park Rangers this weekend before he’s allowed to get back out on the training ground on Monday morning.
“When the players report, I’m there to link up like we are now on video,” he explained to The Star. “I link up with them in the room via a video conference, and have a chat with them… We go through some bits and pieces that we’re trying to adhere to in terms of the game, so even though I’ve been here at home, I have been part of the matchday.
“Even leading up to it, for instance I’ll see them later on today – I’ll video in and have a chat with them, and it’ll be the same before the match.”
And if you looked closely at the Wednesday bench in the games he’s missed, you’ll have the seen likes of Paul Williams on the phone, hooked up to a headset, as the gaffer tries to relay any important messages that he feels he needs to get across.
Moore trusts his technical team and has been full of praise for the way that they’ve handled matters in his absence, and says they’re doing the best that they can under the circumstances.
He went on to say, “When the game is going on, we have a phone and an earpiece with staff members at the game in case there are any relevant messages we need to get onto the pitch or get down to Jamie and the staff.
“As much as I’m here, I’m still kicking every single ball. And in terms of the preparation with the group, we’re doing the best we possibly can to be a part of it and keep working. It’ll be more of the same at the weekend.”
It’s not ideal though, of course. And the Wednesday boss admits that he’d much rather be pitchside and in the trenches with his players going into the business end of the season – even if it’s just to get a better vantage point when assessing the game and avoiding the pesky delay that comes with TV!
For a trained eye, when you’re there you can take your eyes away from the ball and see things that are happening,” he says. “But on the TV you only get their feed, not the wide angle shot. You’re seeing it from a TV perspective, so you’re at a slight disadvantage. If I was there, I’d be attuned to it, feeling the tempo, and energy and the ebb and flow of the game. Those are the things where you have to rely on your experience.
“You get on the phone and speak to one or two of the staff who are actually at the game – but you can be behind play in terms of watching it from home. A goal went in the other night and I was behind it! I made a phonecall, and then had to wait for 20 seconds, not realising that we’d already scored! I was trying to make a point, and they said, ‘Just say online for 20 seconds and you can watch it’.
“Those are the experiences I’ve come across, but it is what it is, and it’s the best way of preparing that we can.”
It’s far from ideal for a manager still getting to know his players and trying to navigate them away from a treacherous position at the wrong end of the Championship table – but with technology, at least they have options.
“It’s a very, very strange experience…” he says. “ You’re watching the game, making sure you try to keep on the front foot and watching things - keeping the communication with everybody.
“It’s surreal. You’re watching it, but you should be on the frontline with everybody else. Such is the situation though, and credit to the staff and the players in the way that they’ve been going about their business.”
And go about their business is exactly what they’ve done.
Now, after Cardiff City it didn’t go too badly, with Moore left to celebrate on his own as his side put the Bluebirds to the sword with a remarkable 5-0 win at Hillsborough – he smiled as he admitted he’d happily stay away if working from home proved to be the lucky charm!
When Radio Sheffield’s Andy Giddings asked the question of scoring another five against QPR ahead of his planned return v Swansea City, he replied, “I’d happily keep away, definitely. Without a doubt!”