Friday, 2 May 2008

Finding a manager means more than just looking for fella who sounds like a pasta!

Whilst over in England recently, 'twas my rare honour and absolute pleasure to be personally invited to attend a meeting of MOPE, (Managers and Owners Private Enclosure).
As I walked through the huge oak doors, I was quickly swept to one side by an immaculately-uniformed doorman.
"Very sorry, Sir! Mind how you go there!"
Walking back and forth from one side of the hallway to the other was a tall and strange-looking man, with sad vulnerable eyes. Apparently oblivious to everything else around him, he took three steps, walked into the wall, banging his long gnarly nose, pointy chin and bandy knees, swung around on his heel muttering 'Vieira! Vieira!', and then walked three paces until his nose, chin and knees hit the other wall.
The doorman's hand gently moved me along.
"Nearly bumped into Arsene Wenger there, Sir. A very clever man, so I'm told, the Arsenal Manager, Sir. His problem? Most of the time he can see fine, just like you and me, Sir. Drives a big fancy car, he does too, Sir, but any given time, he goes completely blind. Why, just last week we only found him trying to dunk his chocolate croissant in a skip down off the Seven Sisters Road. Bless him.
Eyes like a hawk he has Sir, when he's watching very young French men. He doesn't miss a trick, signs them up for the Arsenal, and turns them into free-flowing skilled artistes.
Then he goes blind and just keeps saying 'Hi deede not see yit, zo hi cannot zay!' over and over again.
Now come on through, Sir."
Entering a large darkly-lit oak-panelled room, I asked for a large Scotch at the bar, and turned to see an older grey-haired red-faced man, chewing gum and drinking wine.
"Aye. I was there once. Scotland. Worked at Aberdeen, aye. But ye kinna get the wine that far north. See this, son? Ahhm drinking a Chateaux Margaux, so I am. Nivva mind it's wan o'the most dearest wines in the world, the quality of this lad really stands oot. I give it a chance to breathe, see. Goes perfect with the Spearmint, does the Chateau Margaux. Ye look more of a white wine man, son, if ye don't mind me saying so. Now, tell me I'm wrong, but with white wine, Juicy Fruit is the only gum. Aye, Spearmint for the red, and Juicy Fruit for the white. Tell me I'm wrong, son. Go on! Tell me! Tell me!"
The barman whispered
"He plays this game with everyone, does Sir Alex. If you tell him he's wrong, he won't speak to you ever again."
"Thanks for letting me know. Another nutter, then?""Well you might say that. But he's the most successful nutter of all time."
'What's over there, in the corner? Is that a boxing ring or a jacuzzi?"
"Oh, that's our 'This Is Anfield' section, Sir. With Liverpool being European City of Culture, we are offering Traditional Spanish-American Face Slapping in the ring, featuring Razor Raffa and Piercer Parry, followed by classes in the Ancient Merseyside Martial Art of Back-Stabbing, given by Masters Hicks and Gillet. A really good show it is too, Sir, Why, sometimes, there's so much blood, you'd almost believe they really harboured a dislike for each other."
In the Gents I saw an ugly sad and dejected-looking man, dressed up as Eeyore, painting the red walls blue whilst being whipped by a bald, evidently sadistic man from Manchester. All of the cubicle doors had been removed, and upon a giant throne erected where the toilets once were sat a stubbly Russian oligarch, yelling to his bald henchman:
"Kenyon, explain him now we still must be cutting off one of his hands for winning nothing, but is not so bad, for also we now will give him one hundred meeeelion pounds to buy players!"
At this his laughed erupted with a boom to strike fear into the hearts of peasants the world over.
It was all just too weird and exciting for me. I bolted for the fresh polluted air of London's West End, and struggled to breath as I took in the horror.
Gone are the days when footballers mattered. While there are of course a few (very few) footballing superstars, there are no charismatic heroes with muddy knees on match day. Compared with the mass ranks of mad Managers and crazed Owners, the players are less than a paltry bunch of overpaid journeymen.
Can you imagine having an interesting conversation, or even a wild night out with Stevie G and Frank Lampard? Sure, you'd get drunk and snowed up, but where's the thrill in that?
No, for real fun and frolics you need those hybrid bastard love children of The Sopranos and Dirty Sexy Money: the Managers and Owners.
Thankfully there are exceptions that prove the rule. American Owner, Randy Lerner, seems to have grasped the idea that an excellent Manager like Martin O'Neill needs years, freedom, time and support to build the strong squad amassing at Aston Villa.
But from Fulham's Mohamed Al Fayed to the drooling Amish-with-Attitude-looking Glazer Family who own Manchester United, there is no doubt that the Owners and Managers are the true stars of the Premier League.
And now the Republic of Ireland has its own bona fide eccentric National Team Manager.
Admittedly, Snr. Trapattoni has one of the most impressive footballing CV's I have ever seen, but I print the quotation below to let you (and England!) know that there's more to choosing your country's coach than just looking for fella who sounds like a pasta.
(Apologies to those loyal colyoomistas who remember this quotation being used herein many many moons ago, before there was any connection between Giovanni and Ireland.)
Giovanni Trapattoni, then the coach of Austrian soccer champions, Red Bull Salzburg, was being grilled by German journalists, who by way of revenge, broke the habits of a lifetime, and reported exactly, word for word, what Trapattoni said:
"Our training is strong. Is modern. Training wins also. I have 21 trophies. There is blah, blah, blah from you. Fools write who know nothing. Blah, blah, blah, blah. I can understand people paying. No problema! Let whistle, is right. Have lost. But run 90 minutes! I am a professional when it comes to psychology. We train, make fitness. You people always make qua, qua, qua! Shit fools!"

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