Football is often said to have a language all of its own. Words and phrases are given new and different meanings as a constant search for metaphors to explain positions, games, tactics and the like, feed the ever-growing lexicon of the game. For example, no-one now thinks that a team’s Sweeper is allocated to cleaning up duties after everyone’s left, and a top Striker is a player that turns up and does his job, rather than one that opts not to. But, when we look at the sayings of managers, especially a few of the often more verbose ones, the English language seems to be on the injured list, and the finer points of semantics are relegated to the substitutes’ bench. A prime example is revealed in the West Country tones, of the much-travelled Ian Holloway.
There are many ways to describe a game where you dog out a result, and take the points, even though it’s hardly the best performance of the season, but very few others – well, let’s face it, no others – would use this collection of words to do so. “To put it in gentleman’s terms if you’ve been out for a night and you’re looking for a young lady and you pull one, some weeks they’re good looking and some weeks they’re not the best. Our performance today would have been not the best-looking bird but at least we got her in the taxi. She weren’t the best looking lady we ended up taking home but she was very pleasant and very nice, so thanks very much, let’s have a coffee.” Not the least fascinating part of this passage is the reference to it being in apparently “gentleman’s terms” leaving one to ponder on which gentleman Ollie had in mind.
On another occasion, gentlemanly terms hardly seemed to be his guiding light. When referring to Cristiano Ronaldo, he decided to include the physical attributes of Mrs Holloway’s pet rodent to illuminate an apparent darkness. “He’s six foot something, fit as a flea, good looking – he’s got to have something wrong with him. Hopefully, he’s hung like a hamster – That would make us all feel better. Having said that, me missus has got a pet hamster at home, and his cock’s massive.”
Drawing upon his version of Arthur Daley’s erstwhile “’Er indoors” seems to be a favourite prop upon which to lean for our Olly. Perhaps he should have consulted her when considering an upcoming vacation. Mystic Meg apparently had little to worry about. “I can’t see into the future. Last year I thought I was going to Cornwall on my holidays but I ended up going to Lyme Regis.” Let’s hope his SatNav was working.
Like so many managers – all of them to be fair – Ollie sometimes feels that his team doesn’t get the rub of the green with the officials. Fear not however, there’s a scheme to deal with that, and it’s worthy of one of Baldrick’s cunning plans. First catch your chimpanzee. “Why haven’t they got cameras? The officials can speak to each other easily enough now. Why aren’t we using laptops that are linked up and can give a decision in five seconds? A chimpanzee could do it – with not much training.”
Of course, that’s all well and good, but what about the referees and assistants that Ollie’s Simian employment drive has put out of work. Well, they could always go into the piano moving business. Or is this just Ollie’s way of describing the worth of a holding midfield player compared to a goalscorer? “It’s all very well having a great pianist playing but it’s no good if you haven’t got anyone to get the piano on the stage in the first place. Otherwise, the pianist would be standing there with no bloody piano to play.”
Get the playing side of things right and you have a chance of success of course, and no-one knows that better than our philosopher in the dugout. “Managing a league club is like making love to a mermaid… you should always be aiming for a top half finish.”
Getting the finish right is, of course, important. So is the start as well though, and you need to get the piano movers in before you order the piano, much as the SatNav needs to know whether it’s Cornwall or Lime Regis before you start the car. When there’s a problem with your players eating the wrong sort of food, Ollie has the answer. “The dietician is going to get rid of that when he comes in. Although, first, we’ve got to get a dietician.” The logic is inescapable.
The Wit and Wisdom of Football Managers is a cup overflowing with the frothy excesses of examples often when a mouth is engaged before the brain is put into gear. Let’s not criticise though, it’s a hard job, and someone has to put the words out there that make people stop and say “What?” And who better than the man charged with bringing success to a club with unreasonable expectations of glory and triumph. More power to you gentlemen, and if it means quoting a few more such delights, to borrow another of Ian Holloway phrases, “I couldn’t be more chuffed if I were a badger at the start of the mating season.”
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