'Clamour' For Giggs Indicative Of Our Shallowness

Ryan Giggs looked good in a suit and was described as a 'proper football man', so John Nicholson isn't surprised that he's being touted for the Untied job after just one match...

Last Updated: 28/04/14 at 09:48 Post Comment

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It has been a classic 'through the looking glass' week. One which has seen some journalists suddenly discovering after ten months of saying David Moyes was 'the right man for the job' that actually he wasn't that good and, hey, did you know, he'd never won anything and was poor at press conferences and uninspiring on the touchline? Who knew that? Apparently, we're now told there is no 'transition' period allowed at United. I don't know where they get these notions from.

But that's been a bit of sideshow to the main event. First, Manchester United appointed a manager with no proven record of success on the deluded whim of one man, now this week some want them to appoint a man who has never been a manager at all, just on the off chance he might be any good.

A new story is here. It is Ryan. The blessed Giggs. Somehow this week The Hairy One went from being a great player to being a great manager in a classic spasm of blind idiotic football nonsense. The sort of blinkered nonsense that only seems to exist in football.

The likes of Dwight Yorke and Jamie Redknapp told us with as much gravitas as they could muster that Ryan is 'a proper football man.' I have raged against this before but it pervades so it's worth asking exactly what people who use this expression think it means?

The truth is it means nothing at all. Nothing. It is a vapid notion expressed in lieu of a more concrete, reasonable and intelligently derived assessment. This was also said of Tim Sherwood, of course, even though to the more objective eye, Tim looks less like a proper football man and more like a chap who has recently spent the night in a skip. It also doesn't seem to have made Spurs any better than under Andre Villas-Boas about whom 'proper football man' would never have been said. Because he's foreign. You can't be a PFM if you're foreign.

But back to our Ryan. He wears nice suit and that, my friends, is enough for many people to think he should get the United job. On Sunday Supplement, journalist Steve Bates actually said that Giggs "looked the part" due to being "suited and booted". Yorke said he "looked' like a manager." And that's enough, it seems. Good in a suit? The job's yours, son. We all know and accept that managerial talent does not equate to quality of tailoring don't we? I hope so. But this week it seems not.

Giggs has what Sunday Supplement man Neil Ashton called "stature and presence and knows the United way". That's why he should be United manager. I'm sure it's not necessary for me to spell out why this might be a flawed critique or that being a manager capable of restoring United to the top might need a lot more than such nebulous, existential notions as that. It surely doesn't need suggesting that a long track record of being successful are actually superior qualifications to just saying, "he looks good him, like."

The idea that winning four meaningless games against sides that haven't had a fraction of the investment that United have had in their squad of title-winning players and making a positive judgement on Giggs' management abilities on that basis is, by any objective analysis, ridiculous. That he might be given the job over and above multiple trophy-winning men, not far short of madness. Yet it's been pushed down our throats all week long, not as a daft laugh but as desirable.

But it doesn't seem to matter to some sections of football's culture. It's a culture so blinkered and short-term that only today's result ever matters. Win 4-0 and that crushes any longer term view; it seems to wipe away any other possible outcome other than success. Argue that some experience in order to know how to cope with the myriad of pressures on a United manager is futile; blank eyes stare back and the words, "but he won four nil though," proffered as justification. This is football's 'this one goes up to eleven.'

One half-decent 45 minutes is enough of an audition for some, apparently. Win the remaining games and we're told there'll be a 'clamour' to appoint Giggs. This will be the same clamour there was to appoint Alan Shearer as manager of Newcastle, I suppose. Alan was also 'a proper football man' who 'knows the club'. The fact he had no experience of being a manager at all was ignored in favour of this fact. It didn't go well. But my god, did he look the part? Oh yes. There he was in a black suit, y'know, standing and then, then walking and clapping as well. All in a suit. Brilliant. Looking the part, it would seem, is more important than being any good. So it is with Giggs.

This week large sections of the media have had a crush on Ryan and simply want the 'class of 92' story to come true. It has been sold to us in the same way as a Take That reunion, complete with 90s Brit Pop soundtrack and slow-motion footage of him walking amongst his people like a God amongst men. The way his press conference was reported you'd have thought he'd become a great orator and philosopher. The need to see the story happen over-rides any actual football considerations. No-one can have any idea what Giggs would be like as a manager. No-one. Not even Giggs himself. Not even if you show him in slow-motion.

There is a modern day culture in society and certainly in football where it seems an absence of history is not seen as proof of inexperience, but rather proof they have done nothing wrong. In this mind set, no history is better than some history. (We may be seeing this in politics with the rise in popularity of UKIP).

Having a track record of winning a lot but inevitably sometimes failing is seen as inferior to someone who has an unblemished record. Those vaunting Giggs as a United manager seem to mistake having done nothing for a lack of failure. They mistake appearance for managerial talent, history as a player for future managerial ability. Why appoint someone who has proven to be good when you can have someone who has not proven to be bad? That is the inescapable logic of those talking Giggs up. That is what being 'a proper football man' is designed to convey, it's what 'looking the part' is supposed to justify.

The mythology that the better you were as a player, the better you'll be as a manager, still seems to hold some sort of sway over the less cerebral of football's cognoscenti, despite very little supporting evidence and plenty of contradictory examples. There is even less indication that looking like a manager makes you a good manager. And no substantiation whatsoever that being a 'proper football man' actually means anything at all.

Johnny now writes superb northern crime novels. We love them. Check them out here: www.johnnicholsonwriter.com

I hope that MU appoint him. There have been times when players promoted to management without experience have succeeded but usually for a short time and usually only when they either inherit a successful team or are simply doing the opposite of the unpopular manager just sacked. Where it seems to me that successful players promoted to management fail is when they stop relying on the players they know and have to purchase new players or when it starts to go wrong and they have not had the personal experience of failure to learn from so flounder when it goes wrong. Even Guardiola has I believe a spotty record of purchasing players and he had the luxury of managing a team just about any player would have given their left nut to play in. If you think it was funny watching United fans bicker over whether Moyes should be sacked imagine the results when it is over one of their own. Just as I argued that I hoped Tim S. would be successful enough at Spurs for him to get the job fulltime because his inevitable failure would lead to another season wasted so too do I hope that MU appoint Giggs as his failure would waste yet another season. Maybe John can clarify but didn't Leeds appoint almost every player from their glory days in the 1970's and didn't every one of them fail?
- murray

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