Alan Pardew seems to be on a mission to prove a point. Or at least make sure everyone is looking at him as often as possible. He's committed to disruptive innovation...
Mesut Ozil was sold as the man that lifted the gloom at Arsenal, but recently something just isn't right. Is he not that good? Is he tired? Could it be that he's just a bit sad?
We live in the future now, and the most disappointing realisation upon getting here is that all the money that was supposed to be spent on jetpack research has instead been frittered away on a variety of social networking sites. But if the continuing inability to soar over tall bulidings and small seas is the cloud, then the silver lining is the ability to ask a few thousand people to describe Ian Holloway, former manager of Crystal Palace, in one word. Here are the answers:
Actor; [deleted]; [deleted]hat; bald; bald; BANTA; bouncebackability; Brent; Bristolpersonified; Championship; character; charac[deleted]; clairvoyant; clout; clown; clown-prince; clueless; combustible; crestfallen; curmudgeonly; defenceless; delightful; [deleted]-wagon; discombobulated; Donaldpleasance; eccentric; embarrassment; flamboyant; flute; ginger; gutless; hackneyed; halitosis; hamster; Ian; kooky; legend; loco; lost; male; Midas; needy; [deleted]; noise; oaf; offbeat; onion; open; orator; owl; parody; person; prick; remonstrative; semicolon; [deleted]bag; shtick; sideshow; sigh; tedious; thuglife; tired; tiresome; tit; try-hard; [deleted]; unbroadcastable; unhinged; vajazzle; village; wackjam; [deleted]; whiny; white; whopper; wrong; Wurzel; yeah.
Which seems fairly indicative, if not totally unanimous, and it should be noted that the nomination of 'legend' came with a note: 'not a sarcastic 'ledgo' sentiment either ... Blackpool fan here'. Still, public mood tested and word count inflated, we press on.
The most important appellation of the mess above is not 'vajazzle', or 'onion'. It's 'shtick', Miss Moneypenny, and not just because it was nominated by whoever was in charge of the Twitter account belonging to a website not a million miles from here. 'Shtick' is the key, the one criticism that wraps all the others up. We know your game, it says. This is a thing you're doing. This is a thing, and it's wearing thin. So thin it's almost see through. We can see through you, Ian.
That thing, of course, is Holloway's habit of digressing into a microphone or television camera, which serves to cultivate an air of general wackiness that some feel is contrived to the point of cynicism. All these homespun tales about birds and barrels of boobs and hamster [deleted]. About Lyme Regis and shirt removal and Joey Barton's cellulite-free backside. Funny on occasion - look, he's doing a little dance on the sideline! Oh, Ollie! - the relentlessness of the comic assault, coupled with a nice line in referee blaming, has led to the weariness and scepticism evidenced above. The calculations seems to be that either he means it, in which case it's boring and annoying, or he's putting it on, in which case it's cynical and annoying.
Anyway, now he's an unemployed shtickmeister, which means that light-hearted profile pieces run a risk of sounding mean-spirited unless they go through a severe rewrite. So let's step back a touch. For a country that makes a point of flaunting its eccentrics, at least when they can be neatly condensed into pre-watershed BBC2 documentaries, England has always been very hard on anybody perceived to be trying just a bit too hard to attain an engaging level of oddness. Particularly when they've got a provincial accent. If Holloway is shticking about to disguise his failings as a manager - which seems to include a strange knack for getting promoted to the Premier League by accident - then he wouldn't be the first manager, and he won't be the last. If he's not a funny as he thinks he is, or not as funny as the people who find him funny seem to think he is, then again, plenty have been there. (A gift, commenters, with compliments.)
To watch Holloway this season was to see a man whose shtick, or nature, or natural shtick, was being worn away by the peculiarities of the Premier League, by the slightly-crazed and scattershot attempts Crystal Palace made over the summer to give themselves the best chance of staying in the Premier League, and by the mess they've been making of it so far. "I just feel pretty worn out," he told journalists as he left his job. That he also told them "I believe I could sell a fridge to an Eskimo" is perhaps encouraging in its vexatiousness.
Besides, these things need to be placed in context, and it's been a pretty weak Premier League for those that enjoy the comedy genre Managers Saying Things. The high priest Brendan Rodgers has been far too busy managing, Andre Villas-Boas has sunsetted most of the management speak, and Jose Mourinho has been uncharacteristically restrained. Paolo di Canio didn't last long enough, Alan Pardew just looks tired, and even Sam Allardyce has had to fall back on the classics, and dust off the old Allardici routine.
Most football managers are annoying, in one way or another. Or perhaps a better way of putting that is: most football managers that spend any amount of time on television are annoying, in one way or another. It's hard to be annoyed at, say, Steve Clarke, because he manages the most harmless side in the country and looks, whenever he's trapped in front of a microphone, like he wants nothing more than to get back to his car and have a kip. But the overexposed ones, the ones at the big clubs or the ones that are known to give good quote; every single one of them will begin to grate, in one way or another. They say the wrong thing, or the right thing but in the wrong way. They smile when they shouldn't, or frown inappropriately. It's easy to forget, when criticising, just how weird the whole thing is: the earthy weirdness of football, multiplied by the glinty weirdness of television, multiplied again by the compressed and toxic nature of both modern football and modern television.
When it comes to the Premier League, there's the stuff that happens on the pitch, which is the sport, and there's the stuff that happens off it, which is a stupid television show. Much of Holloway's popularity and unpopularity - and he is popular, albeit not among most of the people polled - is based on his character in the stupid television show, and if it is a tiresome shtick, then at least it's largely an off-field problem. For it seems, by way of helpful counterpoint, that Tony Pulis will be taking over at Selhurst Park. Now, there's a man who has never once felt the need to vajazzle an onion.