When one takes over as head coach at a club steeped in success the new boss is faced with the tough question of whether to keep club traditions or smash them and create his own. Brian Clough disastrously smashed down many of the traditions that had made Leeds United successful under Don Revie; although Revie himself had also altered things when he took charge chaining United’s strip to white in reverence to Real Madrid.
The Boot Room at Liverpool was an institution. It was for three decades where the coaching staff would sit, drink tea and sometimes whisky, and discuss the team, tactics and ways of defeating their next opponents. It was therefore a surprise to many when under former Liverpool player Graeme Souness the boot room became a Press room. Souness has been blamed for the change but the club has always stated that change was a requirement not a request from the coach.
Now at Manchester United new coach Louis van Gaal is started his own renovations off the pitch as he rebuilds on it. It was announced this week that the creche where United’s players would leave their children on match days while the y socialised in the players lounge with Wives and Girlfriends is to be converted into a medical room.
The creche was apparently positioned between the medical room and the lounge but already the walls have been knocked down to accommodate a larger medical room. Funny how there are always more players in the medical room when a team is not doing well!
More of Van Gaal’s renovations have seen the old players lounge split in two. One half is now a pre-match warm up area, the other is an interview room for overseas journalists. A new players lounge and children’s area has been relocated inside Old Trafford.
According to a nameless source at the club quoted in the Daily Mail, “Scrapping the historic players room and creche has created a bit of a stir. But van Gaal was adamant with what he wanted and everyone has had to fall into line. The creche has gone and has not been moved elsewhere.”
Van Gaal also demanded a UKL3million overhaul of United’s Carrington training facility. Tow pitches were ripped up and replaced with the identical Desso surface that is used at Old Trafford. Also a UKL500,000 video surveillance system has been installed to allow Van Gaal to analyse his squad more closely at training. Sleeping pods have also been installed for players to rest between double training sessions.
One other change introduced is one that Guus Hiddink brought in with the Socceroos, strict meal times and rectangular tables so all of the players sit together at one. Whether United’s players are allowed to start before van Gaal sits down is not known; another Hiddink rule.
He has also insisted that all the players speak English at mealtimes.
He has certainly rung the changes, how the players react will be another thing, will they throw their toys out of the cot and so many changes remains to be seen. As for Van Gaal now all he has to do is hope the changes translate into results on the pitch.