If you define a great manager, it is the ability to identify your own weaknesses and bring in personnel who can help to realise ambitions with their superior knowledge. There is no doubt that Bertie Mee knew his shortcomings and employed outstanding coaching staff to deal with the footballing side of the job.
When he took the reins, it is fair to say there was reluctance on his part to become manager of Arsenal to the extent that he had the option to return to his physio role if it did not work out. The word ‘Acting’ was dropped from his job title within a season.
Mee’s achievements in both contexts – football and Arsenal – were nothing short of outstanding. His playing career was curtailed by injury and following his military service, he joined the club in 1960; no managerial or coaching experience as such.
To take the club from it’s lowest ebb to consecutive League Cup finals and then the Fairs Cup, FA Cup and League title, followed by another FA Cup final. The decline was rapid with time eluding him to rebuild the squad for another phase of glory. Indeed, the final seasons saw Arsenal finish lower than Billy Wright’s last years at the club.
Wright’s investment in youth was beneficial to Mee’s reign. The double-winning team featured a core of players who had grown together, maturing at the right time under Mee’s discipline with Howe’s tactical knowledge. His managerial tenure briefly brought the club back to the level of the 1930s and perhaps the next statues at the club will include one for the man.