Gary Neville discusses the importance of having a core group of players.
At Manchester United, Sir Alex Ferguson was clever because he built such a strong team and squad that he was never in a position where he had to rebuild. He was always massaging the squad summer by summer. There was always two or three in and out, or one-in, one-out. But there was always a core of players who’d been there for six or seven years and I think that’s what you really want. Sir Alex Ferguson publicly said to "never to let a team grow old together" and I agree that to refresh, rather than rebuild a squad, is the way to do it.
People always talk about ‘rebuilding’ but as a manager you need to be given time to be able to manipulate the squad year on year and not sign seven or eight players and then find yourself out of a job the next summer. We’ve seen plenty of examples of that in recent seasons in the Premier League. Last summer, Crystal Palace and Sunderland had a big overhaul of players, well into double figures. I think it’s very difficult to integrate so many players all at once when you don’t get given the time. Ian Holloway signed a lot of players at Crystal Palace, it was revealed this week they’ve got the biggest squad in Europe’s top divisions, and yet he was out of a job a few months later!
When I speak to managers or even chief executives, recruitment is the one bane of their lives. It obviously involves money but it also involves a risk. So I think that managers will say that getting their recruitment right is a key part of their jobs, and probably in some ways, more important than the work they do on the training field. That’s part of the pressure of being a coach and manager nowadays.
It’s certainly something that is incredibly interesting in football nowadays, and we’re seeing different types of recruitment. Take scouts - are they associated with the manager or with the club? Is there a technical sporting director like Franco Baldini or Damien Comolli? Or is it actually left down to the manager, the coaching staff and his trusted aides? You’ve got to make sure that you spread the net far and wide and really do your homework. It’s more difficult for the smaller clubs as they haven’t got the resources to go and scout players, so they rely upon contact and advice, and also trusting relationships in football to give them the advice that they require.
It’s an obvious tactic for managers to go back to their old clubs to sign players that they know they can trust. David Moyes signed Marouane Fellaini. Jose Mourinho has brought back Michael Essien. Joe Allen went to Liverpool when Brendan Rodgers became manager and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is looking to sign players now that he knows well from Scandinavia. There’s no manager that doesn’t do it and why wouldn’t you? You know full well that these players have served you well in the past, they’re players that you can trust, and what a manager wants more than anything is trust and reliability in a player that he signs.
Chairmen are often businessmen now, not always football men. It’s getting to the point where it’s becoming a lot more professional in terms of due diligence. Now there are thick files and dossiers being produced on players. There’s a lot of work going into the signings that are made, particularly at the top end of the Premier League where they look into the background and profile of a player - his interests, his lifestyle, his family life - all the things that you’d really like to know about before signing an individual who’s going to represent your team.
I think Aiden McGeady is an interesting signing for Everton and the guys at EA SPORTS tell me he’s a big fan favourite in FUT with his 5-star skills and 4-star weak foot. He’s a fantastic talent, he’s not proven himself in the Premier League but now he’s back from Russia I think he’ll definitely be worth watching. He can beat a man, go either way and he’s direct. It’s exciting for Everton as they now play the football to enable their talent to get on the ball. They have a great system of playing, and it’ll be interesting to see how McGeady does there.