A former Premier League manager approached us here at Tales and asked that we publish his diaries, so he could show the public what life is like out of the game. His only request was that he remained anonymous. Below is this week’s entry:
As you might be aware, dear reader, the football season is back up and running in Britain. Many managers and fans will be filled with hope right now, dreaming of the success they crave, desperate for victory and fantasizing about the trophies they have yearned for all their lives. But in time those hopes will fade as the reality sets in, this team isn’t very good, this manager doesn’t know what they’re doing, my team is letting me down. The dark clouds will descend over the stadium, there will be protests and booing before the chairman sets up his guillotine and drops the blade; the manager is fired. Crestfallen, empty and broken, the fans will look for guidance in this dark time, for the hope they once had and will need a safe pair of hands to guide them back to the top.
That’s when I come in.
To be ready for this event that is surely soon to arrive, I’ve decided to assemble a think tank of the greatest footballing minds I have access to. I arranged for us all to meet in the games room, where I had set up several laptops, whiteboards and a Subbuteo pitch so we had the tools to analyse multiple different ideas.
My crack team featured many of the great minds of recent times. Harry Redknapp, one of the most successful English managers of recent times (1 FA Cup, 1 Intertoto Cup), who came out of retirement to manage Birmingham City last year, saving them from relegation in the process.
Big Sam, the former manager of England, West Ham and several other great teams, is arguably more successful than Harry (1 League of Ireland 1st Division) and revolutionised management in the early 2000s by introducing dieticians and Prozone analysis.
Finally, Tony Pulis (no honours), is currently manager of West Bromwich Albion and a top set piece specialist. He’ll be able to add steel to my plans as well as arm me with some fancy routines from corners and free kicks.
I laid out a few trays of finger food, breadsticks with dip, mini sausage rolls and cheese pastry twists. No need for crisps. Tone always brings Kettle Chips. It’s his favourite chip/crisp. No need for beer either, Big Sam knows a brewer and always brings a great set of craft beers and other delicacies.
‘Brought the Kettle chips, Al!’ Good old Tone. The boys had let themselves in through the conservatory. Harry was on the phone as he always is. Sam strode through and laid the beers out on the table.
‘Right lads,’ said Sam, ‘let’s get Al back in work! What do you want to go through?’ I explained that by the end of the evening I wanted to be confident enough to enter an interview and pass it, using fresh new ideas that they could help me formulate.
Harry had finished on the phone and had sat down.
‘Basically Al, you have to march in there and demand financial backing straight away. You can’t get anywhere without the chairman’s backing.’
‘What if they don’t have any money?’ I said. ‘What then?’
Harry looked taken aback.
‘They always have money don’t they?’ He looked at the others for affirmation.
‘Er…not always Arry,’ Sam said meekly.
Harry seemed to crumble slightly, shrinking a few inches and turning a bit paler. His eyes turned dark and even though his body was in the room, his spirit certainly wasn’t. He let out a quiet gurgling noise and started moving his arm as if trying to wind a car window down.
This wasn’t a good start.
I thought it would be best to move on. We left Harry over by the breadsticks and walked over to the Subbuteo table. I thought after so long out of the game it would be a good idea to go through some of the modern formations.
‘So, from what I can gather, we’ve moved onto a 4-2-3-1, generally?’ I asked, moving the players into that shape.
‘Well, now Alan, there’s been a recent trend towards a back 3.’ Sam said, shifting the players around. ‘This enables you to either play with 2 or 3 up, depending on the type of shape you want.’
Tony was watching on, bemused.
‘But look at all those open spaces!’ he growled. He leapt up from his chair, still chewing his cheesy twist.
‘I like them tight Al.’ He opened his hands up and scooped all the players together into a big group closer to the goal.
‘Where’s the width?’ asked Sam, slightly exasperated.
‘Why would I need width?’ Tony asked. ‘If I could, I would fill the pitch with defenders. Defenders as far as the eye can see.’ He looked wistfully into the middle distance.
‘Why don’t you, Tone?’ I asked.
‘What?’ He had a look on his face as if this had never crossed his mind.
‘What’s stopping you playing loads of defenders? I’ve seen you play four centre backs. Have you ever tried to play more?’
Tony’s eyes widened. He scrambled around for his coat and his phone. Clasping it all in his hands, he swung round, hurtled past the table and out of the door, knocking Harry and his chair onto the ground. Sam and I went over to pick him up and put him back on the chair, as Tony’s engine started and his car screeched away.
‘Didn’t even take his Kettle chips,’ I said quietly.
We sat down together with a bottle of beer each.
‘I don’t get it Sam,’ I said, staring at the label. ‘You’re all successful managers. You’ve achieved so much. I’ve achieved so much. Why am I unable to get another job?’
Sam put his hand on my shoulder. ‘Listen, Al, I’ve had it all. Managed big clubs in England, I’ve won the League of Ireland first division and even managed my country.’
I looked up from the bottle and into his eyes. He looked into mine.
‘In the end, you have to be able to look yourself in the mirror and be proud of what you’ve achieved. Are you?’
‘Are you proud?’ I asked him.
‘I certainly am,’ he said with supreme confidence.
‘Even with the whole, pint of wine…Chinese thing?’ I questioned.
He glared at me. It was a glare that suggested I shouldn’t ask that again.
‘Are you proud?’ he reiterated.
I looked down. Was I? Was I really proud?
‘Yes. Yes, I am,’ I said defiantly. ‘But I’m not done yet.’
‘That’s the spirit, Al. Now help me stick Harry in the back of my jeep.’