Want to shake hands, Mark? Don’t be a div…

Saturday was just the latest in a long line of no-shake incidents involving Mark Hughes, which ended with him wearing that puzzled yet insolent, teenage-style ‘it’s not me, it’s him’ faux-shocked and then faux-amused expression. He just can’t understand why some managers won’t pretend to respect him and would prefer not to give him a veneer of acceptance by shaking his hand.

Unlike Hughes, it would seem, I’ve never been a big fan of the handshake as a concept, in any walk of life. Whether as a greeting, or a departing. Whether it’s the outstretched firm grip of the alpha male who sees it as a mano a mano strongman contest, or the damp, flabby, flaccid, why-did-you-even-bother version that someone working in a bank gave me recently.

Basically I don’t want to touch you; I don’t think it means anything.

For a start, I don’t really know how to perform the act. How do you judge how hard or fast to do it and for how long? No-one tells you these things. There are some who just won’t let go of you, others are done after one shake, in a kind of hand-on-hand version of premature ejaculation. And that’s before we get to whether to go in straight, half-cocked, or worse, go for a knuckle bump.

More heinous yet, when shaking any man’s hand, I worry where it has recently been and what it has been doing (if it’s a woman, this doesn’t bother me at all, for what I assume are subconscious psychosexual reasons). And I know I’m not the only one.

Recently I was in one of those big pub toilets, washing my hands. There’s a bloke beside me doing likewise. Then a man emerges from a cubicle, heads straight for the door, pulls it open and leaves.

Me and the other bloke look at each other with horror all over our faces like an unwanted eau du cologne.

“Sorry, but I’m not touching that handle,” I said, as we used the hand dryers. “I know that probably seems weird but I just can’t.”

Thank God, he was sympathetic. “I totally know where you’re coming from,” he says, then gets a paper towel and wraps it around the handle to he can pull it open. I cheer and exit arms aloft in celebration at avoiding vicariously touching someone’s cock.

So basically, I’d do anything to avoid shaking hands with anyone at any time. In the same way that saying ‘thank you’ doesn’t mean you’re really grateful, shaking hands doesn’t have to mean anything at all. It’s just a ritual, and it is a ritual without any point when it comes to football managers at matches.

The ones that are already matey with each other don’t need to do it because they know they’ll soon be in the office drinking a bottle of red, sitting with their legs wide apart. And for the ones that don’t like each other, it’s just a fake gesture. So what’s the point?

Mark Hughes has often seemed to come from that school of football fan who thinks you can abuse someone for 90 minutes and afterwards pass it all off as all part of the game.

He has form. Earlier this year there was the latest in a series of no-shake incidents with Tony Pulis. Last year Walter Mazzari couldn’t bear to shake his hand and in the past he’s had similar run-ins with Roberto Mancini and Arsene Wenger. I’ve heard a journalist say Hughes always “vigorously defends the technical area”, which sounds like a euphemism for being a bit of a sod.

In all of these incidents Hughes always, and embarrassingly, plays the innocent. It’s never his fault. His opponent is the one being rude by not shaking hands, usually after Hughes has been shouting and swearing at them all afternoon.

Let’s not excuse this. It’s some shade of childish and it looks incredibly old-fashioned. This attitude that you can basically do anything up to and including giving someone a right hook on the touchline, then shake hands and walk away “like men” once the game is over, is nonsense. If you want someone to shake your hand (and why are you’re so keen about that anyway, perhaps it is a way to psychologically absolve you of your sins?) then it’s simple, don’t swear at them and tell them to eff off all afternoon. If you are going to do that, don’t pretend to be surprised when the opposition manager blanks you.

To me it looks like Hughes’s attitude is classic bully behaviour which lays the blame for his own actions on the victims.

I’m sure his supporters would call Hughes “a man’s man”, and I’m sure he is. And therein lies the problem. It is all part of the ‘boys will be boys’ mentality which has long been a get-out clause for appalling behaviour by the twat-ocracy. It is the ‘banter’ defence which likewise seeks to blame the innocent party for not understanding that fact. It is the same as the England fans admonished by the FA for singing ‘No surrender’ etc who wrote back to the FA to complain that is was only banter; a bit of laugh. And I’m sure the Chelsea fans singing the antisemitic song about Alvaro Morata this week would lay off the blame for their behaviour on the over-officious PC brigade.

Football has a coterie of nasty little bullies who are unwilling or unable to see that the world has moved on and left them behind. If Hughes doesn’t want to be seen as one of those he has to change his behaviour, because it’s no coincidence that this keeps happening.

John Nicholson