On The Left Side
Proper Football Man
[prop-er fut-bawl man]
1. A man who has traditional beliefs or styles when it comes to football.
2. If a manager, he likely plays 4-4-2 and is of English origin.
3. If a player, he will “like a tackle” and will never simulate injury.
4. Will enjoy golf, drinking and most importantly “banter”.
(Also See: Tim Sherwood; Peter Reid, Ian Dowie)

Do you remember the reaction of messers Paul Merson and Phil Thompson when Hull City had the audacity to replace dyed-in-the-wool Englishman Mike Phelan, with ‘funny foreigner’ Marco Silva?

“What does HE know about the Premier League” spluttered Merson before asking “Why does it always have to be a foreign manager?”, his eyes pleading with the Soccer Saturday audience back home. “There are a lot of people out there who know about the Premier League, about what’s required to dig in,” chimed former Liverpool boss Thompson in agreement. “He’s not got a clue. It’s just another slap in the face to British coaches and managers,” he added before promptly shuffling back to his Sky Sports dressing rooms to cry into a freshly laundered cross of Saint George, and read some UKIP campaign pamphlets.

You see, the ability of a manager to “Dig In” is a key attribute in the eyes of the “Proper Football Man”. Along with skills such as “Telling it like it is”, “Sticking to his guns” and “wanting it more”. It’s what sets them apart from those members of the fraternity who think tactics, transfer dealings and training are enough to get them to the top… the fools.

With the game of football becoming more and more global every season, the scene is set for the PROPER Football Man (or PFM) to make his comeback.

When I say a comeback what I mean is there are a couple more PFM’s in gainful employment than there were a couple of weeks back but who knows, maybe this is the start of something big?

Let’s start in Spain where Granada are in deep Caca. Two points off the bottom of La Liga and, at the time of writing, five games to save their top division status. There is no doubt that they needed to roll the dice and do something drastic in an attempt to save their own skin. What NO ONE predicted was the appointment of former Arsenal defender Tony Adams.

It’s hard, on paper, to see the appeal of Adams as a manager. His brief spells at Wycombe Wanderers, Portsmouth and Gabala (in Azerbaijan) certainly didn’t have Premier League clubs queuing up around the block waving multi-million-pound contracts in the air. There was something however that appealed to the Granada board (who I can only assume had spent most of the day drinking Sangria*). It didn’t take long for Adams to prove his credentials. He came out in his very first press conference and promised to give players a “Kick up the Arse” whilst also giving an insight into his keen tactical brain by revealing he’d be telling the player to “Put the ball in the net at one end and stop it going in the other”. This is the kind of no-nonsense approach that makes the PFM so popular. It’s something we can all understand. It’s simple: Stop those funny-talking, siesta-taking Spanish lot from taking the p*** and get them playing proper football.

Adams was heralded as a breath of fresh air with English pundits wondering why Arsenal had been so foolish as to ignore his footballing services for so long. Adams is currently two games into his Granda tenure and has conceded five goals scoring none in reply. So, on recent form, he’d fit right in with the Gunners set up.

It’s not just Adams that has made a return to football this month, however, as last week we saw the crown prince of PFM take up his throne at Birmingham City. Despite the fact that for many Harry Styles would be a more sensible managerial appointment, for some inexplicable reason the Midland’s club appointed Harry Redknapp as their new man in charge. The former West Ham and Portsmouth boss has three games in which to ensure the Blues keep their Championship status and got to work instantly reading directly from the PFM handbook.

“I’m not interested in the money”** he told the media before confessing he saw the job as an irresistible challenge that some people would no doubt think he was “Mad for taking up”. This is expert level PFM language. On one hand, he’s proving that he is very much up for the job, showing his passion and endearing himself to fans. On the other he’s instantly absolving himself of any responsibility should things go tits up. This is the art. How the myth perpetuates. When a PFM succeeds it’s because of hard work and commitment, when they fail, well, they were only “having a go” and it was probably those foreign players who let him down.

So that’s two appointments in two weeks… This could be the start of a revolution. Good old English managers, like Redknapp telling their players to “Just f**king run around a bit.”*** and dismissing at every opportunity the benefits of zonal marking. That is however unlikely.

The PFM can never be in a situation of dominance. They work best under the radar, lurking at middle of the table clubs only to be linked with the top jobs before being shunned in favour of a more impressive name with a more modern approach to the game. If they were to ever get a job at Arsenal, Chelsea, United etc… the myth would be broken and pundits across the land would no longer be able to blame the failures of foreign managers on their lack of ability to understand the “Magic of the FA Cup”, have the balls for a “relegation dogfight” and failing to get “110%” from their players. I think the big appeal is they speak in a language that pundits can understand, they use tactics that can be easily identified and, most importantly, they LOVE a bit of 4-4-2.

Who knows, Adams may yet pull off a miracle in Spain and Redknapp may well keep Birmingham up. The pair of them could well be far better equipped for the job than I give them credit for. After all, Paul Merson himself claims that ‘Arry is “Better tactically than Arsene Wenger”…That said, given recent performances at the Emirates, that’s nothing to write home about.

*This is the kind of stereotypical casual racism that PFM’s revel in.
**It’s worth noting that “nothing” in Redknapp terms, once it has been via his accountant probably works out about £2.3million a year.
*** That’s an actual Redknapp quote.

Jim hosts weekly, topical football podcast On The Left Side. You can hear more of his funny stuff here. Give it a listen, go on…