The dictionary definition of the word “manager” is “one in charge of business or institution: one who handles and persuades: one who conducts by skilful use of means.”

The hope too, is that they are people who succeed. In team sports, as well as in other walks of life, it is where the buck stops.

Often the biggest factor a manager has to deal with is inconsistency of performance.

Their reputation stands or falls from the work – and in sport the results – of those people the manager is responsbile for.

It is their selection, yet so often there are fluctuations in what those trusted people produce. In all situations, the manager has to find a message that works.

In Football League 2, Cheltenham Town are trying to win automatic promotion, and there was certainly no doubting the tone of what manager Mark Yates had to say after Saturday’s 2-0 defeat at Plymouth.

Publicly he described the performance as “hopeless.” In the dressing room I suspect it was something much stronger.

Last season they were beaten in the play-off final, and it looks like Cheltenham will again have to take their chance of going up by the same route, after a season where they have won fewer games, scored fewer goals and, unless they beat their last three opponents, accumulated fewer points.

Their main problem has been away from home.

They’ve not won a game north of Birmingham for 15 months. A tie with Rotherham in the play offs would test Yates’ skills at instilling confidence in his team.

40 minutes from Cheltenham’s training ground, Forest Green Rovers manager David Hockaday tries to galvanise his players for their last four games in the Blue Square Premier.

“We were bullied” was Hockaday’s repeated response to the 2-1 defeat at Tamworth.

I’m not sure if Hockaday ever watched Monty Python, but he always looks on the bright side of life. Well,almost.

Saturday’s result clearly hurt. In a rare change of stance, he asked the players to look hard at their own performance,which is as close to a public sideswipe at them as he ever delivers.

Rovers improved significantly last season, and in mid February looked strong play off contenders, only for their form to dip at a vital time. Whatever Hockaday has said, the message doesn’t seem to have carried the same weight of late.

Born in County Durham, Hockaday knows all about the passion for football in the north east, and passion is one of the words described to back up Paulo DiCanio’s appointment as manager at Sunderland.

The bulk of Hockaday’s playing career was at Swindon, Di Canio’s previous club.

Along with Jose Mourinho and Ian Holloway in their time, DiCanio will be gold dust to the Premier League media.

At Swindon, his press conferences were long, at times very long. He didn’t stop talking. Every point was made with real feeling.

For his first match in charge, Di Canio deflected any anxiety away from his players.

He declared that having been appointed on Sunday March the 31st, any reward from a game at Chelsea seven days later would be a bonus, given the limited time he has worked with his new squad. Sunderland lost 2-1.

Their next game is against Newcastle, the first of what DiCanio conceded were six cup finals.

The rehearsal is over. For DiCanio and other football managers up and down the land, this is the time when their word skills, as well as their tactical skills, are fully tested.


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