Being a Premier League manager is, in many ways, not that different from being the CEO of a blue-chip company: You’re in a well-paid, pressurised role in a highly competitive market, supplying your product to a fickle worldwide customer base.
But what would these men be like if they were not operating in the world of soccer, which most of them have been doing for nearly their entire lives? What if, instead of coaching elite athletes to sporting glory, they held management positions at regular businesses in which they were in charge of normal, 9-to-5 workers in the real world?
Which of the Premier League’s 20 managers would be superstars of the commercial sector, riding a wave of regular promotions, and who would be constantly hanging above the drop zone like Michael Scott?
Mikel Arteta (Arsenal Direct Marketing)
A popular member of staff at the sharp end of the business not so long ago, Mikel’s triumphant return as office manager was much anticipated and he has not disappointed. A new desk layout is working wonders for creativity, the schedule suits everyone and productivity is up 200%. Unfortunately, this has come at the expense of his previously fun personality which has been replaced by a much more serious, corporate attitude. This new, hard-nosed approach is summed up by a couple of high-profile firings of highly paid employees who were coasting, but now the rest of his young staff know he means business. No one would even think of inviting him for post-work drinks, though.
Steven Gerrard (Aston Villa Auto Parts)
An absolute legend of the industry in his days on the shop floor at a much bigger, more successful firm. Also well known for once slipping over in the warehouse and knocking rows of shelving over, incurring huge losses. The CCTV footage of the incident went viral but he’s not embarrassed by it. In fact, he wears it as a badge of honour and his staff respect him all the more for it. “Stevie,” as he likes to be known, worked his way up at his first company for almost his entire career before finally moving into the white-collar world, and everyone expects him to return one day when a top job comes up there.
Thomas Frank (Brentford Tech Solutions)
Has lived and breathed the business ever since he was a boy, studying the trade since he was old enough to work a laptop. Constantly doing work experience and internships, he would relish any opportunity to make tea or take meeting notes just so he could be in the room. Finally got his shot at a small, independent west London firm when the previous boss left. The promotion raised a few eyebrows among staff, but he quickly won them over with his engaging personality and thorough knowledge of how to maximise performance. Lots of team-building away days.
A new-wave office manager who has brought in plenty of big ideas about working practices picked up from his time working in Sweden, which he never stops mentioning. His staff hold sweepstakes most days on when he’ll first mention that the Swedes are more productive despite taking longer holidays: he rarely gets past lunchtime. Constantly badgering HR to adopt the Scandinavian approach by giving his workforce more time off during the holidays, not letting them work overtime and allowing more days of annual leave than is regular in the U.K. Because of this the staff are a happy, balanced lot, but productivity has plateaued after an initial spike.
Sean Dyche (Burnley Custom Printed Beermats)
An old-school boss who worked his way up from shop floor. Enjoys some bawdy office banter but will always back his staff to the hilt. Lets a lot fly in exchange for results; flimsy sick day excuses, coasting on a Monday, the old liquid lunch lasting a bit longer than it should — as long as the firm breaks even at the end of the financial year, he doesn’t mind. Most likely to get the first round in at Friday drinks and then remind everyone about it all next week. Likes to make out he could do a better job than “that lot upstairs,” although secretly he is perfectly happy where he is. Or, at least, he was.
Thomas Tuchel (Chelsea Global Investments)
Was parachuted in for the final quarter of FY20 with things looking bleak after the previous boss, who was such a high-earner for them out in the field but just couldn’t get everyone in the office pulling in the same direction as the boss. Turned things around in no time with a simplified strategy that allowed the best members of staff to thrive. Productivity was soon as high as it had ever been, and everyone was happy under the new management. Even amid the sudden crisis at board level, he remains a calming presence.
The board realised a big change was needed at Selhurst Business Park. The company was rolling along fine, but the whole environment was uninspiring. They were almost totally reliant on one piece of high-quality equipment that periodically threatened to give out, but they always seemed able to squeeze another year from it. An expensive head-hunting agency delivered Vieira, who brought with him a host of younger, enthusiastic and, crucially, cheaper workers on zero hours contracts whom he lets do TikTok dances while they are on shift. Productivity is through the roof.
Frank Lampard (Everton Crafted Confectionery)
After he was sacked from a similar role at a rival company, rumours flew around the industry that he wasn’t cut out for management. Spent a year as a regular on the conference circuit and rebuilt his reputation with his charm and smooth talking, and soon found himself back in a big job at a fading legacy firm. But, yet again, things are not working out as the upturn in results promised in his flashy interview presentation are yet to materialise. Lampard may be running one of the oldest, most-respected names in the industry, but he’s in danger of losing the major lucrative contract that keeps the business afloat.
Jesse Marsch (Leeds United Yorkshire Stone Quarries)
There were concerns among the workforce when their beloved former boss, a grandfather figure they would run through walls for, was fired and replaced by a young American. Before he had even walked through the door, there were cruel jokes about whether the culture clash between this up-and-comer from Wisconsin and the people of Yorkshire would be too great: “Does he even know what a coyt, kegs or a ginnel is?” However, the new boss quickly won his team round when they realised he actually cared deeply about them and told them exactly what every workforce wants to here: “You guys have been working too hard!“
Brendan Rodgers (Leicester City Life Coaching)
Not so long ago, Brendan was the next big thing in the industry. But he has never managed to lay down any roots, instead moving around every few years as he chases the next big opportunity. He really wants people to know he is for real: he posts lengthy essays about his philosophy on LinkedIn, and has a giant self-portrait behind his desk. Hates it every time he has to visit Selhurst Business Park for work.
Jurgen Klopp (Liverpool Renewable Energy)
You’ve heard of managers who are detail-oriented, or those who like to think they are all about ideas, but Klopp is the chief exponent of vibes. His main aim as a boss isn’t profits or market share, guys … it’s happiness. He makes anyone and everyone who comes into his office feel better when they leave, and if he even gets the smallest hint that one of his team is having a bad day, he closes for the day and takes everyone down the pub. The staff love working for him, and even joke among themselves about what an easy ride they get, but they don’t realise that they are working harder than they ever have at any other job.
Pep Guardiola (Manchester City Venture Capital)
The biggest control freak anyone has ever worked for. His whole philosophy is about collaboration and he’ll often have workers answering each other’s phone calls and emails to drive that point home. He lives and breathes the job and has everyone’s entire working day — from their commutes to what they have in their sandwiches at lunch — meticulously planned. He will often overthink his job and baffle employees with myriad spreadsheets and org charts, to the point where they sometimes completely malfunction and can barely spell their own name. Everyone is wildly successful and making more money than ever, but are they happy?
Ralf Rangnick (Manchester United Hedge Fund Management)
Ralf is an acting manager whom the board have brought in while they find a permanent hire. He is basically a glorified substitute teacher and none of the office workers take him seriously; there is much goofing off, elastic bands being flicked around and office chair races through the corridors of this once great company, but he doesn’t care. He already has a cushy executive role waiting for him as soon as the CEO can find a replacement and his temporary babysitting role is over. Yet despite this apparent malaise, the public are still buying what they are selling in record numbers, so no one from board level has thought to look in on the office and see what’s really going on.
Eddie Howe (Newcastle United Management Accountants)
He looks like he’s joined on an internship and hates when anyone points out that he looks young, so he overcompensates by mentioning TV shows he remembers from the 1980s and talking about his gardening. Many questioned his early changes, but he quickly turned his staff from the type of people who would accidentally print out 1,000 screengrabs of the Google homepage in colour into a crack squad of book-keeping whiz kids. Eddie is determined to make the most of his big opportunity, even if he’s not too sure about the firm’s new owners.
Dean Smith (Norwich City Kitchenware)
Dean is, on the surface, a bright and friendly presence around the office, but those who know him can see that he’s become jaded as the industry is changing around him. He has no idea what a “breakout room” is, or why people keep talking about “low-hanging fruit” in meetings. This isn’t a grocers, he says to himself, though he never says it out loud.
Ralph Hassenhuttl (Southampton Sailboat Showroom)
Ralf was one of those modern bosses who had crazy ideas to modernise the office every day when he got the job a few years ago. Monday, it was all about everyone having stand-up desks, but by Tuesday he had forgotten about that and was obsessed with all staff going for power walks at lunch to get the creativity flowing. His team think he is goofy but likeable and the office has a harmonious atmosphere, even if productivity isn’t the best. The working day starts at 10 a.m. because he is mysteriously afraid of the number 9 but won’t tell anyone why.
Meetings with Antonio never last more than five minutes because the manic, energetic boss can’t ever sit still for any longer. Doesn’t even have a chair at his desk because there is no point. His energy is infectious though, and his workers try their best for him but often have no idea what they are doing because all staff briefings are just random words shouted loudly. He is never in his office, and instead can often be found accosting staff in the corridor and either berating or hugging them, sometime both at once.
Roy Hodgson (Watford Pest Control)
On the surface, Roy seems like the sort of office boss who went out with the telex machine (ask your parents), but he just keeps on going and all his staff are really impressed. He can scan a document with no issues, give whirlwind PowerPoint presentations and host a video conference call with ease. But even he seems unlikely to be able to save this struggling firm from ruin.
David Moyes (West Ham United Waste Management)
About as inspiring as a cup of tomato soup from the vending machine, David is all about getting on with the job. His office is bland, no one is allowed trinkets on their desk or even screensavers on their computers, but everyone is happy to just crack on because the work is satisfying. His is a tale of caution as he got a huge blue-chip corporate gig a few years back, but he was out of his depth and the company’s shares tanked. However, he has learned from his past mistakes and his current employer is reaping the rewards.
When Bruno’s much-loved predecessor quit out of the blue, the entire staff went into meltdown. Who will be the first-aider now? Where on earth do we get pens from? Who knows the code to the office alarm? But Bruno arrived and things are back on track. The printers are never out of ink, the fridge is always full with milk and all kinds of dairy alternatives and the schedule is a colour-coded thing of beauty. It’s like the other guy never left.