Thierry Henry has not been the head coach of the Montreal Impact long. But already, he is laying down the right foundations that his tenure will build upon.
They say that first impressions are critical to our forming opinions of the people we meet. We make subconscious judgements about new people in the first few seconds of speaking to them, analysing their body language, features, behaviour and speech. These impressions then provide the foundation of the relationship.
In a similar manner, the early stages of a manager’s tenure are vital. He must make a good impression with his players, the owner, his coaching staff and those working in the front office, and, most importantly, the fans. The attitudes and values he brings will reverberate throughout the club. The culture that is set stems from his early behaviour and decisions. Everything he says and does helps to build the foundation of his work, for better or worse.
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Thierry Henry is a matter of months into his tenure as the Montreal Impact head coach. He managed only five competitive matches, of which only two have come in Major League Soccer, before the postponement of all play, and got to work with his players in a limited fashion during preseason, training, and since then.
But despite these restrictions and difficulties, the Frenchman still has had ample chance to lay down his foundations for his time at the club. And based on how he discusses the work that he has done and the work that he will do, he is providing the perfect base for him to build off.
“It takes time,” Henry told reporters on Tuesday when discussing the progress that a new manager can make. “It took Jurgen Klopp three and a half years to do what he’s doing with Liverpool, it doesn’t happen just like that. We were kind of getting somewhere – it was early, let’s not get carried away – but guys were understanding how we wanted to play. The intensity, the togetherness, the fight. Then we had to stop.”
The hiatus in play and training will have obviously undermined some of the positive work that Henry has achieved, but the basic values and culture that he wants to instil is quite plain to see.
“Intensity, togetherness, never give up attitude and hard work,” he vowed. “Style will come, it takes time. But you need that in abundance. We had that before we stopped, so hopefully we can have that when we start. It is early days, let’s not get carried away, but I hope to see that—and more.”
This desire for hard work, commitment, application, high-character and investment in the process may sound like airy-fairy ideas that have little pertinence to what happens on the pitch, but the culture a manager instil in his early days will ruminate throughout the club. The players latch onto his ideas, positively or negatively. The club is formed around what he says and how he acts. The entire organisation leans into what the manager puts forward.
Henry demands commitment from the Montreal Impact. And for all of the desire for flair, talent, potential, and skill, at the basis of every successful team in any sport is commitment. Everyone has to buy into the project.
Henry recognises the importance of the first impressions he is making. Even with the current disruption, he is laying down the foundations for the remainder of his time with the Montreal Impact. And based on how he speaks, he might just be providing the necessary building blocks for a successful reign.