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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After Richmond Park, Labour MPs are haunted by a familiar ghost

Labour MPs in big cities fear the Liberal Democrats, while in the north, they fear Ukip. 

The Liberal Democrats’ victory in Richmond Park has Conservatives nervous, and rightly so. Not only did Sarah Olney take the votes of soft Conservatives who backed a Remain vote on 23 June, she also benefited from tactical voting from Labour voters.

Although Richmond Park is the fifth most pro-Remain constituency won by a Conservative at the 2015 election, the more significant number – for the Liberal Democrats at least – is 15: that’s the number of Tory-held seats they could win if they reduced the Labour vote by the same amount they managed in Richmond Park.

The Tories have two Brexit headaches, electorally speaking. The first is the direct loss of voters who backed David Cameron in 2015 and a Remain vote in 2016 to the Liberal Democrats. The second is that Brexit appears to have made Liberal Democrat candidates palatable to Labour voters who backed the party as the anti-Conservative option in seats where Labour is generally weak from 1992 to 2010, but stayed at home or voted Labour in 2015.

Although local council by-elections are not as dramatic as parliamentary ones, they offer clues as to how national elections may play out, and it’s worth noting that Richmond Park wasn’t the only place where the Liberal Democrats saw a dramatic surge in the party’s fortunes. They also made a dramatic gain in Chichester, which voted to leave.

(That’s the other factor to remember in the “Leave/Remain” divide. In Liberal-Conservative battlegrounds where the majority of voters opted to leave, the third-placed Labour and Green vote tends to be heavily pro-Remain.)

But it’s not just Conservatives with the Liberal Democrats in second who have cause to be nervous.  Labour MPs outside of England's big cities have long been nervous that Ukip will do to them what the SNP did to their Scottish colleagues in 2015. That Ukip is now in second place in many seats that Labour once considered safe only adds to the sense of unease.

In a lot of seats, the closeness of Ukip is overstated. As one MP, who has the Conservatives in second place observed, “All that’s happened is you used to have five or six no-hopers, and all of that vote has gone to Ukip, so colleagues are nervous”. That’s true, to an extent. But it’s worth noting that the same thing could be said for the Liberal Democrats in Conservative seats in 1992. All they had done was to coagulate most of the “anyone but the Conservative” vote under their banner. In 1997, they took Conservative votes – and with it, picked up 28 formerly Tory seats.

Also nervous are the party’s London MPs, albeit for different reasons. They fear that Remain voters will desert them for the Liberal Democrats. (It’s worth noting that Catherine West, who sits for the most pro-Remain seat in the country, has already told constituents that she will vote against Article 50, as has David Lammy, another North London MP.)

A particular cause for alarm is that most of the party’s high command – Jeremy Corbyn, Emily Thornberry, Diane Abbott, and Keir Starmer – all sit for seats that were heavily pro-Remain. Thornberry, in particular, has the particularly dangerous combination of a seat that voted Remain in June but has flirted with the Liberal Democrats in the past, with the shadow foreign secretary finishing just 484 votes ahead of Bridget Fox, the Liberal Democrat candidate, in 2005.

Are they right to be worried? That the referendum allowed the Liberal Democrats to reconfigure the politics of Richmond Park adds credence to a YouGov poll that showed a pro-Brexit Labour party finishing third behind a pro-second referendum Liberal Democrat party, should Labour go into the next election backing Brexit and the Liberal Democrats opt to oppose it.

The difficulty for Labour is the calculation for the Liberal Democrats is easy. They are an unabashedly pro-European party, from their activists to their MPs, and the 22 per cent of voters who back a referendum re-run are a significantly larger group than the eight per cent of the vote that Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats got in 2015.

The calculus is more fraught for Labour. In terms of the straight Conservative battle, their best hope is to put the referendum question to bed and focus on issues which don’t divide their coalition in two, as immigration does. But for separate reasons, neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats will be keen to let them.

At every point, the referendum question poses difficulties for Labour. Even when neither Ukip nor the Liberal Democrats take seats from them directly, they can hurt them badly, allowing the Conservatives to come through the middle.

The big problem is that the stance that makes sense in terms of maintaining party unity is to try to run on a ticket of moving past the referendum and focussing on the party’s core issues of social justice, better public services and redistribution.

But the trouble with that approach is that it’s alarmingly similar to the one favoured by Kezia Dugdale and Scottish Labour in 2016, who tried to make the election about public services, not the constitution. They came third, behind a Conservative party that ran on an explicitly pro-Union platform. The possibility of an English sequel should not be ruled out.  

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.