When Glen Riddlesholm resigned as manager of FC Midtjylland due to a ‘difference in philosophy’, Billy Grant was a tad concerned. Was this to be a common occurrence with clubs run in this particular way? Before ringing the alarm bells, he decided to have a dig around to see what he could find. And what he found – the club has embraced a whole new ethos to encourage open-ness between employees. Interesting 

OK so time to expose the elephant in the room. Ever since Glen Riddlesholm resigned as manager of FC Midtjylland last week, it’s been remarkably quiet in cyberspace.

The tiny Danish club, who only a few years back had its players buying their own lunch in an effort to cut costs, against all odds beat the mighty FC Copenhagen and Brondby to the title – qualifying for the Champions League for the first time ever.

Riddersholm quoted the reason for leaving being in effect a difference in philosophy – stressing that he was not prepared to “compromise his principals any more”.

Any Brentford fan who experienced Warburton-Gate first hand will probably have taken a sharp intake of breath on reading this.

Deja vous???

These were the exact words Mark Warburton used when explaining the reason for himself and Brentford parting ways.

When we first heard the news at Beesotted, we were a trifle concerned it had to be said. So we took it upon ourselves to do a bit of digging around to try and make sense of it all before putting pen to paper.

The questions that comes out from both Warburton-gate and Riddersholm-gate are:

– Is the system that Brentford and FC Midtjylland have embarked on workable in the long term? 

– Will we find every coach we employ throwing in the towel once he (or she) has become successful?  

– Will working under such a system where the ultimate decision making is restricted to certain individuals prove to be compromising principals?

It is well known by people who follow the story closely (and not the scandal-looking headline writers) that Mark Warburton made a decision he was unable to work with the new system at Brentford as he was not going to be given total veto over signings.

At Rangers he now has total say over who comes in and out the club.

But what was it that made Riddersholme decide to leave after leading FC Midtjylland to their best season ever?

The Danish publication Eskr Bladet seems to have some explanations 

Riddersholm was employed by the club long before the new regime of Ankersen and Benham. Like Warburton, he was in place before the new system was introduced.

Riddersholm started with the club in 1995 coaching the youth team in FC Midtjylland’s former incarnation Iksat FS and was there through the whole merging of Ikast FS and Herning in 1999 to form FC Midtjylland. He became 1st team coach in 2008 and manager in 2011.

In 20 years he was only away from FC Midtjylland for 2 years when he went off to coach to Danish U17s team.

To say Riddersholm is Midtjylland through and through would be an understatement. He was there when they were doing the equivalent of the Griffin Park bucket-rattling.

Any decision he would have taken would not have been done lightly.

So why did he leave?

He seemed to have bought into the FC Midtjylland ethos.

“In everything we do, we look to be creative and go beyond the old, conservative ways of looking at football,” Riddersholm told FIFA.com.

“Our aim as a club is to build a culture that’s about more than just winning the next game. We don’t have the money of an FC Copenhagen or a Brondby, so we need to be better in other aspects. And we’ve looked and worked on those aspects one by one”

“That’s the club’s outlook and I love it because, as a coach, I don’t like to walk in other people’s footsteps. I prefer to create my own path and find new solutions. So what we look to do is analyse the many factors that go towards being successful and to approach the game in new ways. And what’s been really enjoyable has been seeing those thoughts – all our ideas and philosophies – transferred into actions”.

But it also seems that he had a love-hate relationship with his Sporting Director Claus Steinleins. The pair went back 20 years – both being at Ikast together.

According to Ekstra Bladet, it seems like that there have been a number of issues that have been nagging him over the past few years.

Riddersholme said “There have been a number of challenges over a long period of time. I have very clearly stated that these challenges are not fresh. Some of these challenges and compromises have been going on for 3 years”

Interestingly, he went on to state that many of these issues were around well before Matthew Benham and Rasmus Ankersen got fully involved in the club.

Over the years Claus Steinlein in effect became Ridderholm’s boss with all key decisions on signings being ultimately made by Steinlein.

One can only assume that the dynamic changed between these guys. They had worked side by side for years then Steinlein became Ridderholm’s boss. This could have irked him.

Maybe.

But as the club was obviously moving forward in many ways, he went along with the ride.

Ekstra Bladet asked Claus Steinlein if Riddersholm’s resignation and talk about compromises pointed the finger at a breakdown in his relationship with the manager. Steinlein denied that was the case.

“Employers sometimes see things one way and employees see things the other way. Most employees at the club have been here for 5 to 10 years. Glen has been here for the whole trip. It’s a shame we won’t see the journey out together”.

On leaving, Riddersholme was ultimately respectful to FCM for giving him the chance to manage a successful side.

“I will show respect for the club that gave me the chance. I have no desire to dish the dirt or point fingers. I’m happy to suffer the consequences. But I do not want to compromise anymore because I feel that I have served the club long enough. I don’t want a mud fight”.

What Brentford fans want to know is – what does this mean for Brentford and the system that they are implementing from their Danish counterparts? And is it likely to fall apart?

Looking at the Riddersholm’s situation:

  1. Riddersholm was already at the club when the system was introduced. Very similar to Mark Warburton. The difference being Riddersholm decided to accept the changes. Albeit some of these changes it seems with gritted teeth.
  2. Riddersholm had issues even BEFORE the new system was introduced. This seems to stem from his working relationship with Claus Steinlein the Sporting Director
  3. Unlike Warburton, Riddersholm did not really have any collateral until this season. He was a manager of a club that he’d finished 3rd, 6th and 3rd in the Danish Superliga before this season. Warburton had far less managerial experience than Riddersholm but he had won promotion from Division 1 in his first season in charge and took Brentford to the verge of the Premier League the following season. If there were to be any time for Riddersholm to walk it would be now once FCM had won the league

More importantly, Brentford fans want to know … will this be a recurring problem? The fans want only what’s best for the club and if we are danger of successive coaches not seeing eye to eye with the sporting director and are unhappy with the way we do business, surely the way we do business needs to be addressed??

 

  1. Only time will tell but it would seem that it is a co-incidence that there was a similarity between the departure of Warburton and Riddersholm. Both were employed by the club when the new system was in place. And both, in effect, decided that the new way of the club operating wasn’t right for them
  2. If there is a buy-in from an employee (eg. head coach) from day one then he or she knows exactly what involved in. Yes it will be an experiment for some. Marinus Dijkhuizen has admitted that this way of working is new for him. But he has also acknowledged that his main focus is managing a football team and tactics. Not saying he doesn’t have an input into other areas. But he is under no illusions as to what his primary function is within the club. This can only be good thing. He also admits if he does his job well, the whole club benefits
  3. Some employees may find down the line that this way of working does not suit them. But you will get that in any job.

Communication is key to ensuring everybody is on the same page.

Interestingly, Maninus Dijkhuizen highlighted the fact in an interview recently that he fully understood the ethos of the club as he was made to sign up to a new ‘manifesto’ on joining. One key component of that manifesto is the open-ness clause:

“The club encourages genuine, open discussion with everyone entitled to (respectfully) air opinions regardless of seniority. Once a decision is agreed, everyone then abides by it. If one disagrees with a potential decision, that decision should be challenged and not swept under the table. The disagreement must be expressed face to face with the person who made the decision. Most importantly, the discussion should always be open and respectful (eg. I believe we shouldn’t do X because of Y as opposed to “Thats a stupid idea. Screw that”)”

Who know where the future lies. But on the face of it, Brentford seems to have covered a few bases covered in ensuring good dialogue between staff and management.

Admittedly, it’s still very early days in the evolution of Brentford football club. And not everything will never go 100% according to plan.

So to answer the questions we posted earlier …

– There is no evidence that the system is not workable in the long term. In the UK, Swansea and Southampton are probably the closest models and they haven’t done to shabbily

– There is nothing to stop a coach from leaving if he is successful. That happens in traditionally-run clubs too. That is down to the relationship between the coach and the management – oh and money

– If the coach has bought into the system from the start, there is far less chance of him (or her) feeling compromised. However, there may be situations where coaches may feel the job is not for them down the line. Once again, that could happen in a traditionally-run club as well

Having analysed the Riddersholm situation a bit further and got an insight on the new open-communication ethos of the club, personally I’m feeling that the club seems to have acknowledged a number of issues and dealt with them accordingly.

How will that translate into results? Only time will tell.

But as long as everybody is happy and everybody is talking, it can only be a good thing.

And in the long term, everybody will benefit.

 

Billy Grant
@BillytheBee99

 

 

 

 

 

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