Want the money? Take the anonymous flak

Date published: Monday 28th September 2015 10:21

Brendan Rodgers thinks people are out to get him, while Tim Sherwood is bemoaning criticism from ‘faceless people’. You’re the entertainment; get used to it.

With post-match press conferences, once conducted in private with a few brandy-soaked hacks, now being broadcast as part of the Premier League soap opera, there is no place for a failing manager to hide. So it’s inevitable it sends some of them a bit loopy from time to time. Indeed, one of the reasons the cameras are there is in the hope that there is a paranoid rant from a manager with more self-regard than is strictly justified.

Tim Sherwood’s words from this weekend are typical and you will find them echoed in one form or another every week by every under-pressure manager – which is basically almost all of them.

“It’s not the same job as it was 10 or 12 years ago. Everyone’s got their own opinions: faceless people out there, you’ve got social media, you’ve got more pundits than players.”

This is classic stuff from a proper football man. It contains the harking back to a previous era which, by implication, was always better. You’ve got contempt for the public, who again, by implication, know nothing and don’t understand what you’re trying to do, and there’s dislike of ANY technology which allows the public to state their view. I’m not sure if Tim thinks that in the good old days, faceless people on the terraces or in the pubs were not being critical of managers, but this is a statement that anyone from Arsene Wenger to Brendan Rodgers to Steve McClaren will sympathise with.

Managers also love to go on about how there’s no patience in the game now, how there’s no loyalty and memories are short. They forget to say that back in the old days, a manager would get paid a very modest wage by today’s standards and would not be set for life after a couple of years. Funny that. They also forget that they are the beneficiary of the short-termist hounding of managers out of their job when they replace a previous paranoid loser.

When you see a Brendan Rodgers’ press conference – and this weekend’s was a doozy – what he fails to realise is that he’s part of the entertainment. In fact, more often than not, he’s the story because of what he says and does, and the way he says and does it. You’re manager of Liverpool, why would that not be the case? Every manager in your position suffers in the same way when results are poor. It’s not unique to you. But Rodgers, ever keen not just to run before he can walk but to be able to do the 100 metres in nine seconds and cross the finishing line declaring himself the greatest sprinter ever, can’t see this.

Sherwood’s haunted, woke-up-in-a-skip demeanour is also part of the fun, as is speculating if Louis van Gaal is completely sober and whether Roberto Martinez could put a positive spin on anything, up to and including the apocalypse. Who amongst us does not watch Steve McClaren’s interviews and wonder first and foremost when he’s going to shave off that front tuft of hair?

Jose Mourinho press conferences now often feel like one-act dramas, full of over-dramatic gestures and sub-plotlines. Even the somehow-always-weedy voices of the off-camera media representative form part of these mini-plays. The one on Friday asking Jose about Wenger was so hilarious it could have been an out-take from Alan Partridge.

Yes we take the mickey and have a go at them all, but that is why they’re there. They’re actors on the Premier League stage. This is, in part, what we pay for. It is a media-driven age of football, fuelled by media money. For a manager to not like the media exposure is to bite the hand that is not just feeding you, but making you obese.

If you want to hide away and not take part in the soap opera, then don’t be a ludicrously well-paid manager of a high-profile Premier League club. Come up to Scotland where even high-profile clubs’ press conferences are conducted in a small side room, in front of randomly scattered, empty plastic chairs, across a cheap melamine table, for the same handful of bleary journalists every week. These are filmed for use on the local news and look like a parole meeting between a prisoner and his social workers. This is life in the real world.

Do managers like Sherwood really think you’re going to be in charge of a club like Aston Villa and everyone will just ignore you and let you go about your business without comment? Social media is no different to the Saturday afternoon crowd. It’s just people shouting. It would be tempting to think the reason the paranoid manager hates social media is because in amongst its white noise is some accurate analysis of his failure. All that Rodgers’ critics are doing are pointing out what he has said and what he has done. If you ask people to judge you in three years and then in three years people start judging you, don’t act like it’s unjust or that you’re a special case.

The paranoid manager who thinks everyone is out to get him is one of football’s classic stories, performed time and again, season after season, to packed houses. We love it and I suggest that moaning managers get used to the idea that they are on a stage to entertain us, not educate us. We see them for what they are, temporary residents at our clubs. So don’t get so up yourself and remember that out here in the real world, unlike a Teesside steelworker, when you’re sacked and your contract is paid up, you’ll be absolutely minted. You will be handsomely rewarded for failure. And yet you’re still complaining? Grow up.

John Nicholson

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