The Vancouver Whitecaps have hired Marc dos Santos to take over from Carl Robinson. He is a progressive, promising hire, but he needs time and support. Without those, this whole move is futile.
It took just 44 days for one of the brightest managers in English football to be sacked. Brian Clough and Leeds United had had enough. In 1974, Clough who had led previously led Derby County from the Second Division to being champions of English football and the semi-finals of the European Cup, left his post at Leeds, the biggest club in England at the time.
The reasoning for the split was simple: Clough believed that he lacked what he deemed necessary support from the fans, players and board, all of which were loyal to Clough’s great adversary and Leeds’ former manager, Don Revie; and Leeds considered Clough incapable of adapting to the club in Revie’s absence.
I tell of this story because, I believe, it is a great illustration of the most important relationship in all of football: between the manager — or head coach, in the modern game — and the board, owner and club.
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As the Vancouver Whitecaps look to move on from Carl Robinson, a move that has largely been regarded as wise among the football cognoscenti, they will usher in a new era at the club, one that will be spearheaded in a new direction by a new head coach. And that will be Los Angeles FC assistant, Marc dos Santos.
The announcement, made on Wednesday of this week, was emphatic: ‘we believe we can win a championship and we wanted someone to come in and feel the same way, and from the time was started talking, it was evident that that was what his objective,’ said Vancouver Whitecaps president, Bob Lenarduzzi. Dos Santos is in Vancouver to deliver a championship. Make no bones about it.
And while he may not have the MLS pedigree to suggest that is not a facetious, foolish claim, he is a proven winner wherever he has coached. A 124-81-70 record as a professional head coach is nothing to be scoffed at. But winning is easy when you are winning. Just ask Brian Clough. What happens when times run not so smoothly?
That relationship between the board and the manager at the Whitecaps has been questioned in the past. How cohesive was it between Robinson and the front office? We will never really know, but the fact that the question is being asked illustrates that everything was not as smooth as it should have been.
Will this same relationship be as fractious with dos Santos now at the helm? There is no guarantee that it will or it won’t, but it is a pre-requisite that dos Santos, I am sure, has demanded some form of guarantees on. Per the reports, he will have a strong influence on the personnel decisions that are made, but he will have to align himself with the academy-first philosophy of the club. Vancouver are not the cheapest club in MLS, but they are not exactly the lavish spenders that they could be given the size of their fan base and their commercial revenue streams.
Dos Santos is a well-regarded, highly considered coach with a clear style and plan for the future. He is, per all the reports, a good hire. But without support, this whole development is futile.
The relationship between the club and the manager is the most important football. The Vancouver Whitecaps discovered that with Robinson. Dos Santos is about to embark on precisely the same endeavour. Let’s hope that he lasts longer than 44 days.