Tuesday, 21 June 2011

5 Mental Managerial Meltdowns (Warning: Contains Swearing - NSFW)

Who would be a football manager, eh? The amount of wasted man hours of my short life that I have spent shouting at my laptop and the various incarnations of the Championship/Football manager series is enough to tell me that those nutters that sit on the benches of our favourite clubs week in, week out deserve a lot of credit. I mean, if I and a lot of others can't even handle the pressures of virtual world, what hope is there when you are dealing with real people who fail to follow simple instructions such as 'catch it', 'clear it' and 'for the love of God, don't give away a penalty in the last minute of the game'?

Then there's the refs. They have enough trouble enforcing the laws themselves but when they get it wrong, the long term effects of the results are often felt by that man in the dugout. Imagine also, trying to build a half decent side when you've got interfering chairmen, agents and the players themselves all undermining your authority as they chase their 30 pieces of silver with no consideration for the job you're trying to do. Speaking of the players, the (alleged) serial shaggers, drinkers and trouble makers who can't stay out of the papers for just 5 minutes or be seen without some strumpet straddling them in full view of the public can surely be nothing more than a right pain in the backside. Work must be damn near impossible when you've got these dim-witted prats running around like a bunch of children lacking any kind of discipline the very second they are out of your sight.

And of course, there's the parasitic press. Christ, don't even get me started on the bloody media...

Managing a football team must be one of the most stressful jobs around - just ask Gerrard Houllier - so it's no shock when these guys just freak out and totally lose the plot.

Taylor's Touchline Tantrum

Over the last 50 or years, the failures of the England national team have become as predictable as night following day, rain at Wimbledon or the Greek Government asking for money. After the penalty shootout exit at Italia 90, the late, great Sir Bobby Robson was replaced by Graham Taylor as the man at the helm entrusted with the responsibility of taking a team consisting of Tony Dorigo, Andy Sinton and Carlton Palmer to the good ol' US of A for the first ever World Cup stateside in 1994. Unfortunately, we weren't even able to suffer the indignity on an inevitable embarrassing early exit as simply getting through the qualifying group itself proved a stretch too far.

A draw in Poland and defeat in Norway left qualification in the balance by the summer of 1993 but a 3-0 win over the Poles at Wembley in September meant that a only draw in Holland would have been enough to basically see us through given the last game was away to whipping boys San Marino.

All was (kind of) going to plan. That was up until the 60th minute however, when it looked like England were about to take a shock lead. David Platt was through on goal only to be taken clean out by Ronald Koeman on the edge of the area. To the shock of everyone in the stadium, German ref Karl-Josef Assenmacher only deemed the blantant, cynical professional foul to be worthy of a yellow when nothing other than a straight red would have made any sense. Moments later, Koeman went up the other end and scored a majestic free kick. Dennis Bergkamp soon made it 2-0 and it the space of just 10 hugely eventful minutes, Taylor's position had become untenable. The only way the England players would be travelling to America the following year would be for their summer holidays.

Graham Taylor resigned following the ultimately fruitless 7-1 win over San Marino. The former Watford and Aston Villa manager had been slaughtered by the press throughout the qualifying campaign for strange selections and bizarre tactics, becoming the victim of some peculiar photo-shopping in the process. His downfall however, ultimately came at the hands of a calamitous ref and a cheating but talented Dutchman.

As the whole Rotterdam saga unfolded, Taylor realised his fate and was not at all shy in letting the officials know how he felt about their performance. Did he not like that indeed...

Redknapp's Red Mist

Speaking of England managers, it's been a worse kept secret than a Katie Price boob job that the man lined up to replace Fabio Capello following next summer's Euro 2012 failure is one Henry James "Harry" Redknapp.

Harry's demeanor, accent, alleged improper practices and unhealthy addiction to the transfer market often sees him compared, rightly or wrongly, to some sort of footballing Del boy. After a mixed bag of a career that has seen promotions, relegations, an FA Cup win and most recently, taking Tottenham Hotspur into Europe's premier cup competition for the first time since the days of black and white TV, naturally, the man himself would prefer to be recognised for his actual ability as a football manager rather than some of character.

However, the current Spurs boss 'as... sorry, HAS always been known as a bit of cheeky cockney chappie. "'avin a larf" and all that. As such, he seems to rarely gets criticism from his many friends in the media. Most of whom seem to be happy to talk him up and tout him for the aforementioned England role despite his only qualification being that he is a 'likable' bloke. Watch any episode of Sky's Sunday Supplement and you'll have many a football scribe refer to him simply as 'Harry' and wax lyrical about what a great guy he is. Ask the lad in the pub and he will tell you how Redknapp is a "proper" manager (whatever that is even supposed to mean...).

As a result of his image, questionable signings, an apparent lack of tactical nous and one of the worst cases of disloyalty ever seen in English football (TWICE by the way...) go unnoticed.

But despite the huge support he has for the England job, Redknapp is always going to be seen as something of a parody. In a post match interview last season, Redknapp finally became fed up of the perceived reputation he supposedly has and let the journalist know about it...

Keegan's Loving It

Looking at them today with their Mike Ashleys, Leon Bests, and the ludicrously named SportsDirect@St.James' Park Stadium, It's hard to believe that little over a decade ago, Newcastle United were arguably the best football team in the country. It's even harder to believe that team was built by Kevin Keegan! In the 1995/96 season, the Magpies looked as though they would blitz their way to the title leaving the rest of the Premier League pointlessly chasing black and white shadows around until they became nauseous. The free scoring Les Ferdinand led the line with support from the stupendously good David Ginola and Peter Beardsley. They were soon joined by Colombian international Faustino Asprilla to form one of the most frightening attacks one could imagine. Supporting them in midfield, were the likes of Robert Lee, Lee Clark, Keith Gillespe. At the back they had Steve Howey, Darren Peacock, Warren Barton and Shaka Hislop between the sticks. Admittedly, this list may not look all that impressive today but make no mistake, they were considered among some of the best players in the division at the time.

The toon were famously 12 points clear of nearest challengers Man Utd at one point before suffering the kind of incontinence you wouldn't find in an old folks home as they pissed away point after valuable point and ultimately finished in 2nd in May. The fact that United won their second domestic double in three years wasn't even the story of the season. In fact, of the top three most memorable moments from the title race, only one would feature the reds directly; A spectacular backs-to-wall 1-0 win at St. James' when it looked like Peter Schmeichel was taking on the entire Newcastle team by himself. The second most memorable moment was obviously this.

But at number one was the moment champagne corks were being popped all around Old Trafford despite the title not even being a mathematical certainty. I've never been one to buy into mind games but when Alex Ferguson suggested that some of Newcastle's opponents in the run in - Leeds and Notts Forest - would take it easy, he got under Kevin Keegan's skin in way that has never been seen since...

Following this amazing meltdown, Newcastle drew their last two games as United sealed their third league title in 4 years.

JFK's verbal assassination

Newcastle again and far from the wonderful days of bottling it in title races, the club has been through something of a downward spiral. After Keegan left, you'd be forgiven for thinking they fitted a revolving door to the managers office such has been the rate of change. Some 11 anxious arses have warmed the dugout seats since 1997 and that doesn't even include the 4 other 'caretakers'. Things even got so confusing that Keegan himself actually found himself back there at some point - and that wasn't even the most unusual appointment made by the club. Many would argue that 'honour' belongs to Joe "Fucking" Kinnear.

Kinnear wasn't exactly a roaring success. A highlight of his short tenure was comically alienating one of the team's star players Charles N'Zogbia who went on to be sold. The club were eventually relegated the season he was in charge although by the time they slipped out of the division, Kinnear had already left due to requiring heart bypass surgery. I often wonder if this was due he stresses of managing a Premier League football team or perhaps, just the stresses of managing Newcastle. Judging by his very first press conference following his appointment, one would be inclined to think the latter. Having taken umbrage with the way his appointment had been reported locally, Kinnear expressed his displeasure to the hacks in question. Unloading an unbelievable 52 swears in a rant that needs to be heard to believed...

Sitton Pretty

The most frustrating thing about being a football manager must be the inability to communicate with less than talented players who fail to execute simple instructions. This is why I believe top players, Gianfranco Zola, Roy Keane, Bryan Robson, etc. generally don't become great managers. The things that came so naturally to them are alien to the players they are trying to teach. Imagine Zola trying to explain to someone like Carlton Cole what is required to be a top striker. How many Ipswich midfielders would have been able to understand when Keane was talking about what was needed to playing in the Champions League against the likes of Juventus and Real Madrid?

All that said, you wouldn't have had to been a great player to struggle to manage a team in dramatic freefall such as Leyton Orient during the 1994/95 season. The team, managed by little known John Sitton finished rock bottom of Division Two winning just six games. Remarkably, much of the problems at Brisbane Road that year began with the Rwandan civil war!

You may wonder what an East London football team and the plight of the small Central Eastern African Republic would ever have in common. You'd be right to wonder. Basically, Tony Wood, chairman at the time, saw his coffee-growing business out there destroyed during the unrest meaning he could no longer afford to keep running the club. It doesn't need pointing out that atrocities over there far outweigh any problems at some football team but for O's fan, this looked like the beginning of the end for their team. Wood famously put the club up for sale for just a fiver. They were eventually saved by Barry Hearn but not before they were subject of a documentary detailing their struggles that year.

One of the most amazing scenes of this film was caught at half time during a game against Blackpool when the team were 1-0 down. John Sitton, at his wits end after yet another shambolic performance finally loses the plot completely and writes his name in football folklore...

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