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Venus happy to be regarded as a 'tracksuit boss'
PRIOR to his first game as Middlesbrough manager, Mark Venus was faced with a sartorial conundrum. Suit or tracksuit? His answer was instructive.
Some managers are akin to actors, playing out a role and accentuating certain traits of their character in order to elicit a response from their players or opponents. Jose Mourinho and Ian Holloway are two names that spring instantly to mind.
Others are technocratic, studying endless tactical nuances and watching countless overseas matches in an attempt to enhance their understanding of the game. Arsene Wenger and Brendan Rodgers would perhaps fall into that camp.
But for a certain group of bosses, the word 'manager' is less fitting than 'coach'. Their preferred environment is the training pitch, and their relationship with their players is more important than other less hands-on elements of the manager's art.
Venus would unashamedly place himself in the latter camp, hence the choice of tracksuit for the sidelines against Doncaster, and if he is appointed as Tony Mowbray's successor on a permanent basis, Middlesbrough's players can expect to encounter a manager who will be watching everything they do.
“As a manager, you should always be out there with the players,” said Venus, ahead of this afternoon's trip to Blackburn Rovers, which will do much to determine his future job prospects. “Whenever they go out to train, they should have in their head that they want to impress the manager to try to get in the team, or to stay in the team when they're already in it.
“You should be judging everything they do, and if you want them to work hard and ask questions of them, the least you can do is to be out there to watch them do it. You need to be seeing how they respond.
“I expect the players to work hard every day in training, and I expect them to want to get better. I expect them to have ambition, both personally and for the club, and I expect them to want to win.
“That's basically it. I have to organise them and tactically put them where I think is right in a system that should help them for a specific game. That's my responsibility and, if you put the two together, hopefully it can breed some success.”
There speaks a man who knows his mind, and while Venus has spent the whole of his coaching career to this point as Mowbray's number two, it is clear he has developed firm ideas about what management should embrace.
In his previous guise as assistant, it was Venus who ran a number of the coaching sessions, but come match day, it would always be Mowbray who had the final word when it came to team selection and tactics.
Last week's game against Doncaster proved that Venus does not necessarily sing from the same hymn sheet as his former boss, with his six personnel changes and a switch of tactics to 4-4-2 helping to facilitate Boro's biggest win of the season.
There are unlikely to be too many changes for today's trip to Ewood Park, with Venus living up to his reputation as a more pragmatic, direct and realistic football theorist than the man who preceded him.
On the admittedly limited evidence so far, Venus comes across as more attuned to the physical and defensive demands of the Championship, but the former centre-half insists it would be wrong to pigeon-hole him as any less of a football purist than Mowbray.
“I think I have a similar style to Tony in terms of how I'd like my team to play,” he said. “I don't think all the style that we ever played at our football clubs was purely down to Tony.
“I want to play attacking football. I think the fans go to see attacking, good players in their club. They want icons and people who their kids can aspire to be.
“I think the modern game has become more attack based anyway. Look at one of the games this week – Real Madrid scored seven goals and Sevilla scored three. Spanish teams attack whenever they're playing, even if they're up against the best teams.
“Now, that's not to say we won't be playing more defensively-minded players at times, but I always want my teams to attack and score goals. I want us to excite, and that can also mean tackling, running and the players expressing themselves physically on the football pitch. All of those things together, I don't know what style it is, but hopefully it can make us successful.”
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