According to a team of researchers from the Northumbria University, UK, their new study could explain why Fabio Capello recently quit as England manager following the Football Association’s decision to strip the Chelsea defender John Terry of the national team captaincy.
Dr. Paul Davis, Senior Lecturer in Sport Development at the Northumbria University, and postgraduate student Ronnie Regensburger have discovered that managers of soccer teams regard their captains as an extension of themselves.
The study was based on interviews with 15 managers from professional clubs including the UK’s Premiership. It was aimed to examine soccer managers’ perceptions and expectancies of leadership characteristics in team captains.
The findings show that managers considered their captains to be vital in their ability to carry out their management duties. Managers identified a number of duties they expected their team captains to perform.
“We found that in many ways the captain was to be an extension of the manager on the pitch,” Dr. Davis explained. “The manager would look to the captain to have good interpersonal skills and characteristics and also be honest and trustworthy.”
Further, managers highlighted a number of key leadership skills and characteristics as being important. These included the ability to motivate, good communication, consistent performance, game knowledge and decision making – all skills the managers themselves must be highly proficient in.
They also stated that two prevalent leadership types are effective in their captains – either an aggressive approach or a technically skilled leader who inspires others through their own performance. A combination of both was ideal.
“If you take the analogy of John Terry being Capello’s extended arm on the pitch, then Capello may be feeling that he had his arm cut off by the FA. Their rejection of the person he had selected to captain the side could be interpreted as a statement on his own ability to manage.”
“In our research, the managers acknowledge that the captain has to also act as an ambassador for the club,” Dr. Davis concluded. “The FA appears to place great importance on this role for a captain. The next manager of the English soccer team may be well served to prioritize this characteristic when selecting the next captain of the English team.”