July 09, 2003
"You don't have to be a horse to be a jockey"

The weather in London today is not calculated to provoke profundity. It is hot. It is humid. Frankly, you're lucky to get any education blogging here at all, and what you will get will be the usual piggy-packing on someone else, rather than anything startling from me.

The man on whose shoulders I ride today is Brian Glanville, writing in the sports pages of timesonline.co.uk (stuff in timesonline.co.uk soon disappears from the one-click-and-you're-there-o-sphere, so no link). Glanville heeps yet more well deserved scorn on that old cliché about how those who can do and those who can't teach and that those who can't, yet who teach nevertheless, ought therefort to be ashamed of themselves. But those who can't are often great teachers, as he proves by talking about some of the best football managers:

“YOU don’t have to have been a horse to be a jockey.” Such were the lapidary words of little Arrigo Sacchi, who never kicked a ball in anger but rose to become manager of Milan’s championship-winning team and of the Italy team that lost the 1994 World Cup final, only on penalties, to Brazil.

His words came back to me when it was announced that Carlos Queiroz had been made manager of the illustrious Real Madrid, who were said to have preferred in vain his fellow Portuguese, the 40-year-old Jose Mourinho, manager of the FC Porto team that beat Celtic in the Uefa Cup final in May and took the Portuguese league title into the bargain.

Sir Bobby Robson, once a fine footballer and World Cup player, mused that neither Portuguese manager had played football of any consequence. Both had worked under him. Queiroz came from an academic background and began as a schoolteacher. Mourinho, also a teacher — as, of course, was Liverpool’s Gérard Houllier before he made his managerial name at Noeux-les-Mines — initially became Robson’s interpreter when the Englishman managed Porto, “an academic without a football background” who stayed with Robson for six years, following him to Barcelona.

I love it. Especially the guy who started out as an interpreter, for goodness sake. It just goes to show that if you can get your foot in the door, watch whatever it is being taught, and learn to tell who is doing it right and who is doing it wrong and what needs to be said to get them to do it right, you can basically teach anything, even if you are paralysed from the neck downwards.

This harks back to a posting I did last year about the Charlton brothers, Jacky and Bobby, in which I suggested an inverse relationship between inborn ability and teaching ability, the point being that the former is so very hard to be explicit about. Just kick it, boy! Like this! What's your problem? Dunno, coach, I thought you might be able to tell me.

Good teachers, especially teachers of the sort who don't actually do whatever it is very well (or even at all), do not think like this, and do not teach like this. They may never know how to do it themselves, but they know the right things to say to the people who are doing it.

Posted by Brian Micklethwait at 07:51 PM
Category: How to teach