It has been a remarkable rise for Colorado Rapids head coach, Robin Fraser. But now he is proving that he can be more than just a great coach; he can be a great manager, too.
While in the modern management of football clubs former ‘managers’ are increasingly introduced as ‘head coaches’, meaning they are appointed because of their coaching acumen and have less influence on the general management of the club, that does not mean that the management side of the job dissipates completely.
They have may less decision-making power regarding the general management of the club, especially in regards to the transfer market, and the all-encompassing figureheads like Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger might be few and far between. But knowing how to manage players, motivate people, conduct press conferences, interact with the fans, communicate clearly and with a positive impact is vital to the role, and yet they have nothing to do with coaching.
History proves the importance of these abilities. “Steve McClaren was one of the best coaches I’ve worked for,” Phil Neville once said about the former England, Nottingham Forest and Newcastle United manager who has maintained a win-rate of north of 50% in just two of his ten jobs and has not held a position for more than two years since his very first stint in management at Middlesbrough, from 2001 to 2006.
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“He’s definitely one of the best coaches I’ve ever worked with, but that doesn’t alone make you a good manager,” former Premier League midfielder Danny Murphy told the Colin Murray show.
McClaren worked under Ferguson at Manchester United in the ’90s. He was renowned for his coaching acumen, his elite training sessions, and his development of individual players. But he failed as a manager. There is a difference between the two.
The Colorado Rapids appointed Robin Fraser as their permanent head coach last August. Fraser arrived in Colorado as an assistant from Toronto FC. He had also worked under Mike Petke in New York and was an assistant coach at Real Salt Lake before that. His only head coaching position came at Chivas USA, where he was fired after two years in charge with a 22% win rate.
Nevertheless, the Rapids trusted in his coaching acumen, and they have been rewarded. The Rapids immediately improved. They won five of the last seven MLS matches and almost sneaked into the playoffs.
The Colorado Rapids also won their first two matches in 2020 as they third second in the Western Conference. All in all, Fraser has a 78% win rate. And now Fraser is proving that he can one step further than just coach a group of players into a cohesive team. Unlike McClaren, he is showing the personal touch.
“We’ve given them the opportunity to meet with someone and talk about things,” Fraser said in a recent interview with Altitude Sports Social when discussing how he and the Colorado Rapids players are dealing with self-isolation and the difficulties of the coronavirus outbreak. “Basically, it’s an outlet for them to express some of their interests. It could be things that they’re struggling with. It could be things that they want to expand their thoughts on, things that they just want to explore.”
Fraser is a coach, first and foremost, but he does see his players mere commodities or chess pieces, moving them around with a stick into the positions they must be. He is a manager, a motivator, a confidant, and in some cases, a friendly or even fatherly figure.
The great managers create a bond with their players. They work them hard, but they also put an arm around them. They speak to them like humans, treat them as people, look after their personal lives, their mental wellbeing, their entire lives, not just the parts that pertain to how well they can kick a football.
Fraser was already a renowned coach when he arrived in Colorado. Now he is proving that he can be a great manager, also. And the Colorado Rapids will be all the better for it.