When Rudyard Kipling - journalist, poet, novelist and batsh*t crazy Leyton Orient fan - said “If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster and treat these two imposters just the same”, he not only coined one of the most lasting quotes in history, he demonstrated to the world just how little he knew about football.
Because we don’t want this muted, reasoned response to euphoria and calamity - we want the ‘in your face off your head primeval gloating’ of a massive victory and the indescribable joy and finger pointing delirium of seeing your rivals squirm in the mud after being humiliated in the full glare of the global media spotlight. The contrasting reaction to winning and losing is as fundamental to the game as the game itself, and lets’ face it, we wouldn’t have it any other way.
And how the managers react to a great victory or catastrophic thumping is all part of the experience – take Newcastle for instance. Stuffed 5-0 by Leicester, Steve Bruce responded by banning training the next day. Which I don’t understand – to me that sounds like giving your kids a day off school because they didn’t do their homework. How is that supposed to lift the team when what he’s basically saying is ‘I’m sulking and I don’t want to talk to you’?
So whilst he’s working on his soft skills, Bruce should also take a look in the mirror – there isn’t another manager in the Premier League who just looks so unhealthy, or one so physically incapable of ‘taking training’. He’s nailed on to be the first football manager to arrive on the touchline in a mobility scooter – and what effect does that have on his players?
A similar approach was adopted by Mauricio Pochettino after Spurs shipped seven to Bayern midweek. He kept his players back in the changing room after the game but said:
I said nothing to the players.
Must have been a lot of staring then.
It’s difficult to talk now.
I think that’s part of the problem – Pochettino has never learnt to speak English properly. He mumbles through press conferences, missing out words so that his sentences don’t always make sense or just end mid way through, and you’re left hanging.
He did make the point repeatedly about ‘being a man’ and facing the defeat ‘like men’, but this is not going to help a demotivated squad, half of whom probably struggle with the language anyway (Harry Kane for instance), and who still haven’t got over the fact that they blew their one big chance to win something over the summer.
Which is what it all boils down to – Pochettino is quickly becoming one of Spurs longest serving managers, and yet they’ve won nothing in his time in charge, despite top four finishes for the past four years. That’s why the chattering classes are all saying that it’s time for him to go.
He certainly seems to be in demand, with both Real Madrid and Manchester United mooted as possible destinations. Well, he better get his finger out if he’s got his eyes on United, because it was revealed this week that ex-Juventus boss Massimiliano Allegri is having English lessons for that very reason, and if it comes down to an interview between the two of them I know who I’d put my money on.
Perhaps Real Madrid will be a better bet. He can speak Spanish, communicate with at least half the team – although not Gareth Bale - and the current occupier of the hot seat, Zidane is in deep doo-doos.
Zidane doesn’t react well to losing either, although their latest result was a barely face saving draw having gone two behind at home to those Champions League behemoths Club Brugge. Unable to blame Bale for the poor performance since he hadn’t picked him, he turned on Thibault Courtois who he inexplicably replaced at half time despite having not being at fault for the goals.
When pressed on why he’d replaced his goalkeeper, he replied:
He had... things.
Well you certainly can’t play top flight football with things, and with logic and communicative skills like that it’ll be no time at all before Pochettino is in warmer climes, devoid of that terrible black mac and able to give a press conference without sounding like his throat and nasal passage is full of custard.
But with teams like Newcastle and Spurs struggling to achieve, how do you explain the success of teams like Bournemouth and Burnley who season after season continue to punch above their weight?
Well, obviously the managers have to claim most of the credit, neither Howe nor Dyche seem to harbour ambitions to be anywhere other than where they are, which brings an inherent stability to the club – traits that you probably can’t apply to Pochettino and you certainly can’t to Bruce.
But it’s more than this, and the difference has to lie with the chairman and owners of both Bournemouth and Burnley who allow the managers to do their jobs without too much interference. I have no idea who they are for either club, and that in itself speaks volumes.
Daniel Levy at Spurs has as big a profile as Pochettino and is well known for his control of transfers and finances. Similarly Spiky Mike at the Toon has his own men in place keeping an eye on the daily running of the club, so the manager, whoever he is, will always be working with his hands tied behind his back. This was obviously too much for Rafa, but probably doesn’t make much difference for Bruce who’s probably already planning his next move/retirement.
You get the impression at Bournemouth and Burnley, and at Leicester to be honest, that they’re clubs with an holistic approach to their business, a togetherness, where everyone works in the same direction – and as a model for winning, it’s really paying off this season.
Talking of Leicester, I never realised how small Brendon Rogers is – he’s tiny! He was interviewed pitch-side on MOTD2 last week and he looked as though he’d been photoshopped. He’s also has a terrible taste in tracksuits, so should really stick to his suits.
Meanwhile, Qatar - probably in an effort to divert attention away from the literally hundreds of foreign workers who’re dying from heat stress and exhaustion whilst trying to finish the World Cup infrastructure - have announced that they will be subsidising alcohol for the World Cup in 2022. Currently, due to ‘sin taxes’ a pint of something will cost you about £10.00 at the moment – so London prices, then.
They’ve also expressed concern about the reputation of England fans, and it’s suggested or rumoured that they’ll be accommodated on ships offshore to try and reduce the risk of trouble spilling over. So, we’re going to give a load of English fans cheap booze, stick them on a cruise ship in the sunshine with unlimited football in the lead up to Christmas... and we think this is a good idea?
I can’t see there being much effort to treat triumph and disaster with impunity there to be honest. However, I do think the world would be a better place if there were more people called Rudyard.