Sir Clive Woodward to switch from rugby to football?
September 1, 2004 5:42 AM   Subscribe

Sir Clive Woodward to switch from rugby to football? Sir Clive Woodward is the head coach of the England rugby union team. Appointed in 1997, he has had stunning success, including winning the 2003 Rugby World Cup. On Tuesday, the Daily Mail carried an incredible story: Woodward was planning to turn his back on rugby in favour of association football (soccer). Premiership club Southampton appear to be his next port of call with his ultimate aim, the England football team. Is it possible for a head coach to switch sports like this? Many experts think not. Is there any previous example of a coach switching sports like this?
posted by salmacis (24 comments total)
And while I was composing this post, it appears that Woodward has tendered his resignation. Bizarre. As a fan of both sports, I'm in a bit of a state of shock.
posted by salmacis at 5:44 AM on September 1, 2004

There have been a few coaches switch between rugby league and rugby union.
posted by biffa at 5:56 AM on September 1, 2004

The FUCK??!! Between this and the Bono post in AskMe, I feel like I'm hallucinating.

I'm a Southampton fan, and generally in the past we've been happy with people who actually know about association football.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:05 AM on September 1, 2004

Hey cool, now I get to find out who else around here supports the Saints!

For what it's worth, I'd quite like to see him take some sort of role with the club. He has an excellent eye for detail and as an outsider to football I can imagine him questioning all the established training practices that are currently just taken for granted.
posted by saintsguy at 6:11 AM on September 1, 2004

Wow. I really can't imagine that he's going to be successful changing between sports. League vs union never seemed like that big a deal to me (I don't follow rugby, so perhaps it is one) but this seems to be as much of a change as going from football soccer to football gridiron. I'm sure that he'll understand how to motivate players, keep the team cohesive and all that, but that's at most half of the job. How long can the team respect someone who doesn't truly the game?
posted by Zonker at 6:11 AM on September 1, 2004

saintsguy: I lived on Milton Road next to the Dell all me life.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 6:15 AM on September 1, 2004

er, that should be "doesn't truly know the game."
posted by Zonker at 6:25 AM on September 1, 2004

/ Inserts (TV Stolen) Joke about the sports being the same, what with the Hookers and all.
posted by seanyboy at 6:26 AM on September 1, 2004

biffa: Point taken, although there is a bit more crossover between league and union. Woodward himself employed league coaches in his England set up.

A better example would be Eddie Jones quitting in order to take charge of Essendon. Or, for Americans, the head coach of the Detroit Pistons quitting to coach the Philadelphia Eagles.
posted by salmacis at 6:26 AM on September 1, 2004

Is it more or are half the top flight managers thick as two short planks in any case? I can think of three attributes a good association football manager needs:
  1. A good understanding of the game including the ability to analyse problem areas in competitive play.
  2. The ability to command respect, enforce some discipline and get players working and training hard - footballers should be fit as...
  3. Good motivational skills including a solid half-time team talk. Some carrot as well as stick, basically.
How many managers in the domestic game have those? Ferguson, Wenger and O'Neil? How many (like Keegan) get by on just one of the three? I reckon Woodward's got what it takes. He'll soon fill the holes in his understanding - he's a smart chap - and until he does he's got enough of the rest to make a start.

Football being what it is he still may very well die on his arse, though.
posted by nthdegx at 7:02 AM on September 1, 2004

Nothing intelligent to add, but I'll add myself to the list of MeFi Saints fans...

Season ticket in the Chapel.
posted by monkey closet at 7:38 AM on September 1, 2004

Incidentally, though, in interviews Woodward's always said football was his real thing, and rugby was just what he did for a living.
posted by monkey closet at 7:44 AM on September 1, 2004

Umm, what about the English rugby team's record since their World Cup win? The Australians recently thrashed them 51-15, England's second heaviest defeat by the Wallabies and their fourth consecutive loss, matching the previous worst run under Woodward during the ill-fated 'Tour to Hell' in 1998. Maybe that's why he wouldn't mind switching codes?
posted by Onanist at 7:46 AM on September 1, 2004

The Australians

- Sorry mate never heard of them ;).
posted by johnnyboy at 8:16 AM on September 1, 2004

Joe Gibbs coached the Washington (NFL) Redskins to three Superbowls, then switched to auto racing. His NASCAR team is one of the best in the business.

He's back with the Skins after a twelve year hiatus from the gridiron.
posted by dfowler at 8:18 AM on September 1, 2004

dfowler: That's another good example, but running a NASCAR (or any motorsport) team is purely managerial. There's no coaching involved.

(At least, if you're having to coach the driver, perhaps you shouldn't have picked the no-talent Brazillian who has millions of dollars in sponsorship...*cough*Diniz*cough*...)
posted by salmacis at 8:25 AM on September 1, 2004

To be honest I think he will succeed. Management in football today is a lot more about media control, man management and "the big picture" than it has ever been. As a Welshman it pains me to say it, but as far as these qualities go Herr Flick is the best in the business.

The preperation and attention to detail involved in the England world cup win was a sight to behold.
posted by fullerine at 8:50 AM on September 1, 2004


While that's true, NASCAR team owners involve themselves in the minutiae of management to the extent that owning (so-called "coaching) a race team is analogous to coaching a gridiron football team. The coach makes all sorts of decisions that directly affect the outcome of the race (even beyond who's going to line up on a given day).

Come to think of it, running a NASCAR team is more like coaching an association football team. There's much more involvement in personnel decisions and front-office wrangling for an EPL coach than there is for an NFL coach. Perhaps that's why they're called managers in the beautiful game.

Coaching responsibilities/job descriptions vary greatly between sports (naturally less between rugby union and association football than between gridiron football and auto racing), creating a sliding scale that makes comparison difficult. In popular parlance and perception, NFL coaches and NASCAR coaches hold the same position in the hierarchy of sport.

I suspect it would be easier to make the switch from rugby to football, than from football to NASCAR, precisely because of the coaching/managing difference. Hard to say for sure, as I'm talking through my hat if I say anything about the great mystery of rugby union.
posted by dfowler at 9:10 AM on September 1, 2004

Yeah, I'm with salmacis, I don't believe Gibbs is actually down in the pits telling the mechanics what tire pressures to set and such, I'd say its more of a managerial/funding position. With the Skins he's actually calling/creating plays.

Woodward on the other hand is going from trenches to trenches, making strategy calls in real time a far cry from the owner's box on game/race day.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:14 AM on September 1, 2004

" Umm, what about the English rugby team's record since their World Cup win?"

I'd much rather he basically start from scratch building a new side than persevere with the same guys who are the best now but probably won't cut it by the time the next World Cup comes around. England don't have a good record in games that don't matter in any case.
posted by nthdegx at 12:41 PM on September 1, 2004

The Nascar equivelent to NFL coach would be Crew Chief.
posted by Mitheral at 2:58 PM on September 1, 2004

He won the Union world cup without scoring tries, England seem the perfect team to lead to football world cup glory without scoring goals.
posted by vbfg at 3:08 PM on September 1, 2004

A League fan btw. ;)
posted by vbfg at 3:09 PM on September 1, 2004

Ah, forget it. MeFi is so fucking discouraging.

I should've just kept my mouth shut. I realize you folks don't think you're sniping, and think I'm overreacting. But I quit posting on the blue for a while because few members have more to say here than "nuh-uh." I was tired of it before, so I stopped posting.

Then this FPP came along, which I thought was an interesting question, which I had an answer to. I appreciate the post, salmacis, as it brought me out of self-imposed exile.

I'm overreacting. But it's shit like Mithereal saying "would be" instead of "is" that comes across as snide rather than informed -- I don't know this person, why are they taking that tone with me?

That's a question I used to ask myself all the time, back when I posted regularly. It was nice not to have to ask it during my hiatus. I'm going back to those halcyon days.

And the "community" will surely say, "good riddance."

I have a love/hate relationship with MeFi. Check my posting history and you'll see. I've done my fair share of shitting on the blue. I've also posted some great FPPs (along with "the worst post ever").

Good FPPs and good answers are thought-provoking. Most members here don't seem to think much past, "no, it isn't." Oh yeah? Well, yes, it is. So there!

Sure, this should be on MeTa, not MeFi. But I'd sooner jump out the window than post it to that pile-on. Then I could have dozens of people call me a whiny asshole. They can keep it.

I just want to learn something here, and if someone asks a question I think I can answer, I'd like to answer without having to justify myself too much. Here, I will, just to satisfy you folks for the last time:
So what, Gibbs isn't checking tire pressures and technical stuff on the raceway. Is it an NFL head coach's job to make sure his DT has the right length cleats, or even to make sure said DT knows when to blitz? That's where coordinators and assistant coaches come in.

And whether or not the positions are exactly equivalent (they're pretty close, though I'll grant you not as close as a switch between rugby league and rugby union) it is a
previous example of a coach switching sports like this.
That's all. And, salmacis, I appreciate your supportive response. I think there is more equivalency between the jobs than you do, but that opinion is outlined above. I'm glad I could answer your question, but I don't think anyone was really looking for an answer.

Let me be the first to say I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. But that molehill is sitting on top of a pretty big mountain to begin with.

It's a mountain I don't want to climb anymore. Matt Haughey, please rescind my membership. Give it to someone who likes it here.
posted by dfowler at 8:57 AM on September 2, 2004

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