Poor Arsene Wenger. Photo: Ian Walton/Getty Images
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The big decision for any manager is whether or not to scream and shout

"Wenger sat there silently, on the verge of a seizure."

Earlier in the day I had lunch with a journalist friend. He talked about his new editor, compared with the old one.

The old one was a bastard, dictatorial, disliked by all, checked everything, threw stuff out, screamed and shouted. But he was admired – because they could see he so obviously cared. The new one doesn’t get involved as much, delegates a lot, doesn’t read all the page proofs, takes a long time to make decisions. He is liked as a person, but not admired.

Later that day, oh God, I can hardly bear to remember the awfulness, I watched Man City being humiliated by Barcelona. I don’t follow Man City but I’ve been brainwashed to believe we have the best league in the world, so naturally I want our lads, even if they are foreign lads, to win.

I watched Manager Pellegrini doing . . . well, fuck all, really. He just sat there. It reminded me of Roy Hodgson at the last World Cup when he sat transfixed by our pathetic players.

Next night Arsenal got taken to the cleaners by Monaco – and what did Wenger do, after he’d managed to zip up his anorak? Not a lot. He sat silently and suffered, on the verge of a seizure. I honestly did fear for his life.

Van Gaal is another manager who doesn’t stand up and shout at the players. In his defence, he has all that writing, working on his memoirs. I also suspect his knees have gone, or he has weight problems, so standing up is hard.

We know that behind the scenes van Gaal is a bastard, and that even Professor Wenger can get really, really annoyed in the dressing room, but none of those four does what Fergie did and Mourinho does – get up and stand on the touchline and shout at them, issuing orders and commands. In the case of Mourinho, he also does a lot of posing, as he did at Wembley last Sunday.

A good manager looks furious, scaring the shit out of players, making them see he cares. As Guardiola does at Bayern Munich.

Now you could say it affects very little. The players can’t hear much. They are used to their manager’s ways and cut off. Once on the pitch, players have to motivate themselves. Anyway, managers can’t really see what’s going on. They are at pitch level. The far side is a blur. The best they can do is show emotion.

Nor is there any proof that screamers and shouters always do better in life than the quiet and amiable, though there have been loads of books, mostly in management-speak, telling us that it’s the route to success. It used to be putting in 100 hours of practice. Or you have to hate failure more than you love winning. There are as many reasons for success as there are successful people.

In football management, it does seem to be true that some sort of failure in their playing career spurs them on, as with Fergie and as with José (though José totally failed even to have a football career). And it is noticeable that the very top players rarely make top managers, otherwise Bobby Charlton and Bobby Moore might have been successful managers.

You can’t really compare one person’s rise with another’s, as there are always different circumstances, any more than you can compare management in one profession with another. I used to laugh when people said Brian Clough would make a brilliant prime minister or boss of ICI because he was just so bloody brilliant at football management. And yes, that was a strained and pointless comparison between newspaper editors and football managers. Sorry about that.

Later we heard the news that the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is going to be in November and December. I immediately thought fab, it’ll hardly make any difference. We won’t have all that huge build-up, the hysterical optimism and excitement of a long summer World Cup. It’ll just happen: quietly, some of our lads will go off, and they’ll return, just as quietly, stuffed in three games once again. Then we can get back to the Prem, the best league in the blah blah...

Hunter Davies’s latest novel is “The Biscuit Girls” (Ebury Press)

Hunter Davies is a journalist, broadcaster and profilic author perhaps best known for writing about the Beatles. He is an ardent Tottenham fan and writes a regular column on football for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 06 March 2015 issue of the New Statesman, How Islamic is Islamic State?

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The Prevent strategy needs a rethink, not a rebrand

A bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy.

Yesterday the Home Affairs Select Committee published its report on radicalization in the UK. While the focus of the coverage has been on its claim that social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube are “consciously failing” to combat the promotion of terrorism and extremism, it also reported on Prevent. The report rightly engages with criticism of Prevent, acknowledging how it has affected the Muslim community and calling for it to become more transparent:

“The concerns about Prevent amongst the communities most affected by it must be addressed. Otherwise it will continue to be viewed with suspicion by many, and by some as “toxic”… The government must be more transparent about what it is doing on the Prevent strategy, including by publicising its engagement activities, and providing updates on outcomes, through an easily accessible online portal.”

While this acknowledgement is good news, it is hard to see how real change will occur. As I have written previously, as Prevent has become more entrenched in British society, it has also become more secretive. For example, in August 2013, I lodged FOI requests to designated Prevent priority areas, asking for the most up-to-date Prevent funding information, including what projects received funding and details of any project engaging specifically with far-right extremism. I lodged almost identical requests between 2008 and 2009, all of which were successful. All but one of the 2013 requests were denied.

This denial is significant. Before the 2011 review, the Prevent strategy distributed money to help local authorities fight violent extremism and in doing so identified priority areas based solely on demographics. Any local authority with a Muslim population of at least five per cent was automatically given Prevent funding. The 2011 review pledged to end this. It further promised to expand Prevent to include far-right extremism and stop its use in community cohesion projects. Through these FOI requests I was trying to find out whether or not the 2011 pledges had been met. But with the blanket denial of information, I was left in the dark.

It is telling that the report’s concerns with Prevent are not new and have in fact been highlighted in several reports by the same Home Affairs Select Committee, as well as numerous reports by NGOs. But nothing has changed. In fact, the only change proposed by the report is to give Prevent a new name: Engage. But the problem was never the name. Prevent relies on the premise that terrorism and extremism are inherently connected with Islam, and until this is changed, it will continue to be at best counter-productive, and at worst, deeply discriminatory.

In his evidence to the committee, David Anderson, the independent ombudsman of terrorism legislation, has called for an independent review of the Prevent strategy. This would be a start. However, more is required. What is needed is a radical new approach to counter-terrorism and counter-extremism, one that targets all forms of extremism and that does not stigmatise or stereotype those affected.

Such an approach has been pioneered in the Danish town of Aarhus. Faced with increased numbers of youngsters leaving Aarhus for Syria, police officers made it clear that those who had travelled to Syria were welcome to come home, where they would receive help with going back to school, finding a place to live and whatever else was necessary for them to find their way back to Danish society.  Known as the ‘Aarhus model’, this approach focuses on inclusion, mentorship and non-criminalisation. It is the opposite of Prevent, which has from its very start framed British Muslims as a particularly deviant suspect community.

We need to change the narrative of counter-terrorism in the UK, but a narrative is not changed by a new title. Just as a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, a bad policy by any other name is still a bad policy. While the Home Affairs Select Committee concern about Prevent is welcomed, real action is needed. This will involve actually engaging with the Muslim community, listening to their concerns and not dismissing them as misunderstandings. It will require serious investigation of the damages caused by new Prevent statutory duty, something which the report does acknowledge as a concern.  Finally, real action on Prevent in particular, but extremism in general, will require developing a wide-ranging counter-extremism strategy that directly engages with far-right extremism. This has been notably absent from today’s report, even though far-right extremism is on the rise. After all, far-right extremists make up half of all counter-radicalization referrals in Yorkshire, and 30 per cent of the caseload in the east Midlands.

It will also require changing the way we think about those who are radicalized. The Aarhus model proves that such a change is possible. Radicalization is indeed a real problem, one imagines it will be even more so considering the country’s flagship counter-radicalization strategy remains problematic and ineffective. In the end, Prevent may be renamed a thousand times, but unless real effort is put in actually changing the strategy, it will remain toxic. 

Dr Maria Norris works at London School of Economics and Political Science. She tweets as @MariaWNorris.