Forgive my combining of two obsessions.

My football team, Manchester City, has hired the coach most people would say is currently the greatest in the world: Pep Guardiola. He is well known for playing a particular and singular style of football.

It combines a high percentage of possession; intense pressing of the opposition when they have the ball starting high up the field; a fluid formation that varies in different phases of the game and a near obsession with passing and movement.

This requires a particular type of player. Fast, great ball skills, high (footballing) intelligence, massive work-rate, very little ego and above all, the ability to be ‘comfortable on the ball’ (not just a runner and tackler).

He inherited one of the most successful and expensively assembled squads in club football today.

But the talent did not fit the way he wanted to play. So he changed it. He brought in nine new players and sold or loaned out seven within a few weeks. And among those he got rid of was the goalkeeper Joe Hart.

My son’s favourite player; a club icon for over a decade; famous around the world and an England national team regular for years.

But he didn’t fit Pep’s style of play. He couldn’t start the passing and the possession and the fluidity because he was not good with the ball at his feet. To be fair, most keepers aren’t. They are usually only required to be good with their hands and good at stopping things. So he was axed (or loaned out to Turino).

I wonder how many Joe Hart’s there are in PR and advertising agencies that are transitioning the way in which they work. Great at the old methods. Loved by colleagues. Revered by clients. Stalwarts. But they don’t fit the plan or the style of play. It’s not their fault, the plan and the style changed. But they couldn’t.

So sometimes they have to go. Because sometimes great talent is not enough. Sometimes it has to be the right kind of great talent. Which is very hard on everyone. And which takes enormous strength of leadership and faith in the plan.



Image by Thomas Rodenbücher.

2 thoughts on “#InPepWeTrust

  1. I must say, Mourinho has always been my favourite coach. Yet sometimes I wonder, is it really necessary to harshly axe someone from your team when he or she does not meet your requirement? Mou did it with KDB for example, Pep with Hart — and it leads to the next question, will our company ever do that?


  2. Not in that way I hope, but my point was that as our company changes to meet new client needs and a very different media environment so will the skills we require. Mostly our people are up-skilling and re-training and of course learning on the job. But some can’t or won’t. The overwhelming majority of those come to their own conclusion that they should work somewhere else, but some do and will need encouraging to leave. Happily that is where my football analogy no longer holds. ‘Harsh axeings’ are not part of the plan!


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