Ex-Arsenal and Reading goalkeeper played in the Invincibles side and saw close-up what real leadership looks like
IN ONE WEEKEND the Premier League can turn on its head; Arsenal dropped points, Crystal Palace look rejuvenated, Watford seem formidable and Chelsea are suffering.
Leaders have become almost extinct within the game.
Characters and big personalities are few and far between.
Changing rooms are now filled with technically gifted players with very little to say.
The likes of Roy Keane, Paul Ince, Patrick Vieira and John Terry has all the obvious characteristics required for the controversial role and at times it boosted their ability or even covered up for their shortcomings.
At the weekend Chelsea lost to a Palace team rock bottom of the league and yet to score a goal, however, with the return of their leader Mamadou Sakho they seemed buoyant and up for it.
Arsenal surrendered a one-goal lead to lose in injury time to a revitalised Watford, after the introduction of their leader and brilliant bully-boy Troy Deeney.
This only highlighted the importance of such a vital player and the effect it has on the rest of the team and its supporters.
Would a Chelsea team of Terry, Frank Lampard, Branislav Ivanovic and Didier Drogba have lost?
Would an Arsenal team of Vieira, Sol Campbell, Jens Lehmann and Martin Keown have lost?
I have been fortunate in my career to be surrounded by so many leaders and natural winners, most notably at Arsenal as part of the Invincibles.
High standards were set daily, others would have to follow or fall behind and risk falling-out with team-mates.
Hard work was a given, the desire to compete for every ball and win your individual battle was paramount.
No player would accept standards dropping and would tell you straight away in front of the team, it would be addressed, solved and everyone would move on – together!
Do managers find it too difficult to handle too many in the same team? Are they harder to manage?
Do managers feel they can have too much power and influence within the group and can manipulate younger and more vulnerable players?
I believe a manager’s job is made easier if he can assemble a team with a number of trusted players who can lead and manage situations within the changing room and out on the pitch.
Has the latest generation of footballers been spoon fed and wrapped in cotton wool, leaving them unable to lead, have academy players been given less responsibility as young men, have clubs done too much for young players?
Young players seem incapable of delegating and organising other players. Are they afraid, do they have the confidence or bravery to dig out other individuals, do they have the licence to do so or is that the coach’s job?