As the more attentive of you will hopefully have noticed I gave Viva Rovers a much-needed revamp for the summer, a move which not only changed the look and layout of the site, but also enabled space for me to include Popular Stand fanzine within the site. Popular Stand has been running since January 1998, and in April this year was brought under Viva Rovers wing as I took over as editor to produce issue 52. To acknowledge the print ‘zines inclusion on this site here’s an article from that issue, written by myself, on the subject of football management lexicon…
The rise of messageboards and phone-ins means that not only does everyone have an opinion on football, but they have greater opportunity to make it known. Got a banal question? Well why keep it locked safely in your own mind when you can interrupt the Football League highlights programme to ask it to the even more banal Leroy Rosenior? The thing is though, the more fans type their frustrations on a keyboard or text them to Alan Green the more they become framed by a distinct lexicon. The same soundbites become used so often they are taken as facts and as actual terms of language, when more often than not they are just empty sentences. As an English Literature graduate (no really I am) this interests me as much as it angers me, and so I felt it worth examining some of these terms and phrases a little more closely.
Lost the Dressing Room
This turn of phrase is normally trotted out when a previously strong team has started performing badly, with its star players now noticeable primarily by the absence of their effectiveness. The manager is deemed to have lost the respect of his players, they no longer wish to perform for him. What is odd about this in my mind is that it is always labelled as the manager losing the dressing room, despite the signs more often than not showing something of a reverse. The manager hasn’t lost the dressing room, the overpaid self aggrandising young men around him have become bored and disinterested and decided to let the manager take the flack. He only drives a Rover after all. What does he know about modern football? He’s never even been to The Ivy or hung out with desperate blonds in the little roped off bit of a gaudy Essex nightclub.
The fact of the matter is this, despite how often you hear the phrase, only one manager in history has ever lost the dressing room. That man was Michael Caine, in Escape to Victory, when at half-time against the Germans he did lose the Allies’ dressing room… it fell through a hole in the bath into an underground escape tunnel.
Passion is the one token trait the majority of fans reportedly want to see from a manager. Particularly fans of a team which is not doing too well. Passion in football manager terms however should not be confused with passion on the silver screen for example. Supporters do not wish to see their team’s gaffer running in slow motion across a rain drenched technical area toward a piano backed embrace with the fourth official. No, what they mean by passion in this instance is that in essence they want their manager to act like a bit of a cock.
You can be as technically proficient and as tactically astute as you like, but at the end of the day (another phrase favoured by the passion-seakers) if you’re not displaying the signs of oncoming mental illness in front of your dugout then you’re not what folk are after. Remember the last time you crossed the street, or got off the bus four stops early to avoid a person you determined to be not of sound mind? Well all the traits that borderline psychopath displayed, are what constitutes ‘passion’ in a football manager. Shouting and swearing. Pointing at nothing in particular with fierce insistence. A belief in an underhand conspiracy against them and everything connected with them. Hurling inanimate objects about. Berating any type of official in earshot. And then duly pleading ignorance and disbelief that they have actually done anything untoward. It’ll get you kicked out the first bar you set foot in on a Saturday night, but it’ll win you much moronic support as a football manager.
He’s a Character
Similar to the above in many ways… if a manager is labelled as a character then more often than not he’s actually an absolute wanker. See Neil Warnock, Billy Davies, Steve Evans, Phil Brown for further details.
He’s Taken the Team as Far as He Can
This one is the term which bugs me most, because it’s a statement that can only truly be determined in retrospect. And on what criteria is this judged? On the messageboards after Rovers defeat to Hull City in April there were folk starting to suggest that Sean O’Driscoll had taken Rovers as far as he can. That is a suggestion determined only by your own criteria, as if you demand constant upward progression then perhaps you have a point. However, historically, staying at this level as long as we currently have has only been achieved once before. Finishing 20th or 21st for another five seasons would mean the club had enjoyed its longest unbroken spell at this level of the game. Rovers may not be ‘doing a Blackpool’, but in their own terms it would be the best it has ever been.
When John Toshack was sacked by Wales recently the term “taken the side as far as he can” was used. Under Toshack the side had dropped to 115th in the World rankings, but trust me he could have taken that side a lot lower. In effect all this term represents is a handy excuse to dispose of a manager when teams stand still. Football fans are no longer patient, they want progression and they want it now. Consolidation is not good enough. I can empathise, the follower count for the Viva Rovers Twitter feed has been hovering around the 450 mark for the best part of a fortnight. The pressure is on, I’ve tried to entice new followers with witty asides about Alan Knill looking like the person they’d get to play Sean O’Driscoll in a Crimewatch reconstruction, but sadly its proved to no avail… I’m stuck at 450. I’ve clearly taken the twitter account as far as I can go and should step down immediately, or… start showing some passion, by swearing and arguing with anyone who replies. Maybe I’ll throw a tea-cup at the screen. Maybe I can turn it round and stop maintaining these respectable numbers. At the end of the day, I’ve not yet lost the twitter app.