The Football League play-offs return this week, but what do you know of their history since they started delighting us in 1987?
In the second of a new series, John Nicholson and Alan Tyers look at the Premier League's gaffers and how they come across on the telly. This week, it's Aston Villa's Scotsman-in-Chief, Paul Lambert...
Like all good Scots football types, conducts himself in a soft-spoken, eminently reasonable manner while permanently transmitting the warning signs that he could go full mental at the slightest perceived insult. Has become increasingly defensive as time has gone on, which, given the results of his team, is entirely understandable. Toiling grimly, never more than half a sentence away from the word 'beleaguered'. Gives impression that managing Aston Villa is a brutal, horrific labour, which it indeed may well be.
Do not disclose anything to the media unless they have drugged you, locked you in a dank cellar and put electrodes on your nipples. Got that, pal? Seems to think that interviewers are only there to make you look foolish or stitch you up. Has perfected the faux-shocked look when interviewers suggest the game just played was so poor it was a crime against sport. Very much of the old school, projecting a sense of how things ought to be done. Not afraid to take his players on, a bloody-minded streak meaning that he has been happy to dump them out in the reserves for long periods. You get the sense he wishes he could do the same with the TV and the press.
Suit, tracksuit or other
Suit and club tie, often worn under a rather endearingly unfashionable jacket that looks cosy, humble and like it might have come from Man at C&A. Lambert's wearing of a dark V-neck sweater under a jacket is a style which evokes a fondness for the anonymity of the school uniform. When in the Adidas anorak, has the air of a man who works at a municipal pool. Tucks trackie bottoms into socks, and nothing says business-like gaffer with no time for idle chat than that. It all seems designed to give away as little about himself as humanly possible, a suit of polyester-blend armour.
Can he talk the English?
Oh aye. Squeezes it out of his mouth like it's an elastic band he's found in his lamb bhuna, but not a thicko. South-west Glasgow accent as thick as the layer of grease on a deep-fried pizza. Like many Scotsmen, would sound the same whether sober or 25 drinks in.
Quite high. Players exist on a level playing field with Paul, there are no easy games because this is a results business. At the end of the day, Geoff.
Proper football man?
The Scottish managers' club in the top flight has dwindled alarmingly in recent years, but they will surely rise again. The Scot always gets an extra point on the Proper Football Man stakes, although Lambert did blot his copybook early in his career by going off to play in Foreign. Frustrates the in-studio PFM because he doesn't really do #bantz. Seems like an adult, albeit a grumpy one, when placed next to the man-boys of the chattier TV studios.
Oh yes. Expect Lambert and his sensible sweaters to be coming to a pundit's chair near you soon (looking at the football betting, only Sam Allardyce and Alan Irvine are more likely to lose their jobs), where he will be uncompromising and a bit dour. Feels unlikely that he will be out of football management for long enough, or have enough respect for media work, to become much of a pundit.
John Nicholson and Alan Tyers
Check out John's new series of crime novels about life, death, sex and UEFA Cup football.
Or Alan's illustrated sports books here.