Getting the message

First it was Jon McLaughlin, then Steve Williams and now it’s James Hanson’s turn. The Bradford City striker has joined his team mates in receiving public criticism from his manager Peter Taylor, the reasons for which are less than clear.

Taylor declared Hanson, “probably needs two kicks (up the backside). He hasn’t done himself any favours this year. He’s been a little bit unlucky with the hamstring injury – the imbalance he has got isn’t his fault – but in other areas he could have done better for himself and he knows that.” Last season’s top scorer has missed the last three games with injury, and has only started four matches this season. He’s certainly not hit the heights of last year to date, but it’s not clear what Taylor is disappointed with him for.

Rumours have circulated BfB’s way that Hanson has not exactly been the model professional off the pitch, and it’s been suggested he may not even be injured as reported. The tone to Taylor’s words don’t seem to allude to Hanson’s efforts when playing and give some legs to those rumours, and one is left to wonder whether it is wise for Taylor to make ambiguous comments, or indeed say anything about the situation in the public domain, when it can be left so open to interpretation.

Taylor has also not been afraid to criticise McLaughlin for making goalkeeping errors and Williams for not taking matters seriously enough, and it is quite unusual to hear a City manager talk so openly critically in this way about their players. The main school of thought on public criticism, which emanates from Sir Alex Ferguson’s unflinching stance, is that cross words should remain private and players are defended to the hilt in front of the microphones. We know Sir Alex is a tea cup throwing – or at least boot-kicking – type of manager, but no matter how badly behaved some of his players were, he’s never brought his true feelings to the public’s notice.

In our own working lives, many of us may have experienced similar approaches from our own managers. I’ve certainly had bosses who wouldn’t be afraid to tell me off or give me a kick up the backside when I’d deserved it, but when it came to talking to anyone else would defend me to the hilt and only say good things. Similarly I’ve had managers who wouldn’t be prepared to stick up for me and happily join in offering criticism in front of others, and like most people it’s the former style of management that I respond to best.

The one-to-one relationship between manager and employee/player is so vital. Trust needs to be encouraged from both sides; honesty and respect should be mutually contributed and recipicated. The most important person in McLaughlin, Williams and Hanson’s immediate future is Taylor, and it’s vital those relationships work in a way that sees the manager get the most out of them. Whether that’s putting an arm around the shoulder, or screaming in their face.

No one, apart from the manager and player can truly understand how well those relationships are working, because no one knows what Taylor says in private to any of his players. Public criticism for Hanson can seem harsh or unclear to us supporters reading, as we don’t know exactly what he has done to deserve it. But perhaps we are not the target of Taylor’s words, even if it seems they are meant for us to read. Perhaps Taylor’s spoke many times to Hanson and needs a different way of getting the message home. Perhaps when the Telegraph & Argus dropped through the Hanson’s household’s letter box on Wednesday so too did the penny.

Whatever the reasons for Taylor public criticism and however confusing they appear to us in-the-dark supporters, it’s to be hoped they’ve been made loud and clear to the one person who counts.