It’s no secret that there are some terrible, terrible managers in football, a tradition since the football league introduced relegation from the first division in 1898 (both Sheffields went down that year, along with Bolton, the bastards). Three teams have to finish bottom, and most of the time it’s easier to fire one person than eleven people.
Still, terrible managers are often their own best PR flacks, and have come to rely on a stock series of excuses to deflect attention away from the fact it’s all their fault and they don’t know what they’re doing. Here are three of the most commonly used ones.
1. Not Enough Money for Good Players
“Don’t talk to me, it’s the board’s fault!” is an old one. Managers having angry, ultimatum-strewn convos with chairmen about must-need players is to football as a rogue cop handing over his badge and gun to a rule-book respecting chief is to cop movies. No one wants to be a Martin O’Neill about it anymore what with Moneyball/FFP in fashion, and they also don’t want to get in shit with the people who can fire them. So today managers wryly sidestep the issue. Here’s Steve Kean, for example:
“I didn’t expect it to come to this, but there has been a big transition in players. ”
We have lost a lot of players since then – Jermaine Jones, Phil Jones, Brett Emerton, Christopher Samba.
There is lots of experience that has left, but we have a good group. It is a young group, but a good group and we want to get back to the type of performances that we know we can deliver”
Kean is an expert at this sort of thing. Note the use of the word transition, which is a bit like describing how rats “transition” from a sinking ship.
2. It’s the Players’ Fault
You’ll note a theme already starting to emerge. This one is fairly odious, particularly when a manager is already under-fire from a club’s supporters. Take a bow, Alex McLeish:
“I have taken a lot of weight on my shoulders this season. I was happy to take pressure off the players.
“I am not going to next season though. They better get their finger out.”
Yeah, get tough McLeish. What a leader you are. You tell those misbehaving children who’s boss. Clearly, it’s lack of a few stern words that explains why four adult Premier League defenders are unable to defend routine set-pieces week-in, week-out.
3. Insist Everything is Just Fine
This is the Aron Winter approach. Throughout an utterly incompetent 0-0-8 start, the Dutch manager has insisted Toronto will make the MLS playoffs, and that the team is better than the Montreal Impact, an expansion who are eleven points ahead of them in their division. His latest press conference included these gems:
We have to work hard and start to not make the mistakes anymore. When you tie or get points the confidence is going to grow. Everytime we make those small, but also big, mistakes you are running behind. I think that in this case we have to believe in it, I still believe in it and we have to continue to work hard.
So those lost 24 possible points was just the team doing some “hard work.” Everyone else is content to build a relatively competitive football team, but Toronto FC needs to build the pyramids. Give them some time.