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)