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:

I received a call from Gary Megson, asking to meet me in a pub in Birmingham. I checked with Julie to make sure it wasn’t a hoax and Gary knew he wasn’t the West Brom manager anymore. She said she’d followed it up to check it was indeed the real Gary Megson, although she couldn’t confirm that he knew he was no longer the manager. However, he was going to cover my travel and accommodation expenses, so off to Birmingham I went.

I met Gary in The Lord Clifton, what he called a ‘lovely little boozer.’ He got a round in (result, free trip) and we sat in a back corner, away from the Wednesday night throng.

‘Thanks for meeting me Alan,’ he said, in hushed tones.

‘No problem, Gary.’ I had to work out if Gary knew he was no longer West Brom’s manager, otherwise, this could get awkward fast.

‘Do you know why I’ve asked you here today?’

‘Have you gathered me in this room because I’ve done a murder?’ I said, smirking.

Gary looked incredulous.

‘This is serious Alan.’

I decided to change tactics.

‘Do you need my help? Do you need management consulting?’ I’m pretty certain that if someone is deluded, the absolute worst thing you can do is buy into the delusion. But if I went along with it maybe I could pull him back to reality.

‘Yes! Yes! I need you to consult me! Or rather, I need to consult you!’ He flung his arms in the air, his eyes practically bursting out of their sockets with excitement.

The man was living in another dimension. Cats were eating dogs, frogs rained from the sky and Big Sam, Alan Pardew, David Moyes and Roy Hodgson were all unemployed.

‘Gary, I’m not sure that I’m able to help. If you’d asked me a few weeks ago, maybe, but now it’s too late.’

‘Why?’ He slumped back in his chair. ‘What’s changed?’

Time to burst his bubble.

‘Well… West Brom decided not to hire you. What can I do now?’

He looked at me quizzically, the gears turning in his head, putting two and two together and finally, after at least five minutes, getting four.

‘I don’t want you to consult the team, Alan. I know I’m no longer the West Brom manager, I want you to help me stay in management!’

Now my gears were turning.

‘What do you mean?’

‘’How do I make sure I don’t vanish from the zeitgeist like you have?’

There are those gears again. Except rather than turning, they were grinding.

‘What exactly do you mean Gary?’

He smiled politely.

‘Sorry, Alan, I should have been clearer.’ Ah, maybe he misspoke. Surely no one thinks I’m that anonymous. Now Gary will reveal that he simply meant he would like to know how to set up a management consultancy business. I can help him with that. Although if he thinks he’s having my agent he’s got another thing coming!

‘Zeitgeist means ‘the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time.’’

What a piece of s***.

‘Shockingly Gary, I know what that word means. How can I help you?’

‘You had a decent management career. Not brilliant, but y’know, decent. Getting Charlton up a few times, keeping them up, doing okay with West Ham, b-’

‘I’m West Ham’s second best manager of the Premier League era,’ I interjected.

‘Er, yeah, if that’s what the stats say,’ he conceded. He then paused.

‘Really? Is that right? God, they are a terrible team.’

I’m gonna glass this f*****.

‘Be that as it may, I need you to tell me what you did after you left West Ham, so I can not do that.’

I’d had enough. I banged both hands on the table and stood up in one movement. My face darkened and my eyes narrowed as I locked eyes with Megson.

‘You want to know what I went through?’ I growled. ‘I’ll tell you what you have to not do!’

I grabbed either side of his head with both hands as if I was about to crush his skull. All those dark days were flooding back, the wave of emotion hit me like it had all those years ago. I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. The world was getting darker, all I could see was Megson, who was beginning to weep in terror.

‘Don’t get insomnia. Don’t stop speaking to your wife. Don’t send George McCartney daily emails. Don’t travel to Nepal. Don’t study under the Buddha. Don’t join the Yakuza. Don’t end up the owner of a cabaret club. Don’t end up a sous chef. Don’t start a Youtube channel. Don’t learn parkour. Don’t buy a Harley.’

Megson’s face was starting to bleed where I was grabbing him. He was screaming something at me, but I couldn’t hear. The only sound that existed was that thumping heartbeat. It was getting louder. I was having to shout to be heard.


All the rage and anguish of those lost years was too much. I squeezed Gary’s head further. It would only be a matter of time. Just a few more seconds until-


I dropped his head and fell to the floor. Gary was whimpering, his head face down on the table we had shared a few moments before. I looked at my hands, covered in his blood. I had managed to stop myself, I thought I was stronger, that I had given up that old life. But I had just come close to reverting back to my old ways.

I scrambled to my feet. I rooted around in my jacket pocket, grabbed a tenner and slammed it on the bar. The barmaid looked at it, her face white.

‘Keep the change,’ I murmured.

‘Actually, you owe-’ she stopped herself. ‘Never mind.’

I burst out the door and caught a taxi to my hotel room. Once inside I went into the bathroom to wash my hands. I stared in the mirror, just about recognising myself. I took off my shirt and looked at my back.

A tattoo depicting a red devil, holding a hammer in one hand and a sword in the other leered back at me. A constant reminder of the old ways. It had burned as I held Megson.

‘Hanmā to ken no akuma…’ I whispered.

I broke down and wept.