It’s a fairly damning indictment of the recent generation of English managers that the 2011/12 season will mark the 20th anniversary of the last time a native manager won the league. Footballers themselves may have moved on a bit, both in terms of the amount of money they earn and the number of group sex sessions they have. But when it comes to tactical nous, man-management, mind games, media interaction, and all the other hoo-haa associated with running a modern club, it’s clear that English managers have a lot to learn from their Scottish brethren, and those wily foreign types, with their diets, and their coaching – what are they like, eh? It wasn’t like that in Harry Redknapp’s day!
Of course, if we were to judge the Ultimate Premier League Manager on titles alone, there’d be slim pickings indeed. So in the spirit of competition, we’ll divide up the body parts and choose subjectively from a range of arbitrary categories, ranging from Dress Sense to Ability to spin around in frustration without falling over – it seems like the fairest method of deciding.
Section 1: The head. Or to be more specific, the brain. When Arsene Wenger arrived at Arsenal in 1996, he looked like a cross between a supply teacher and a Debenhams area manager, but it was definitely his glasses that got him the nickname Le Prof. It can’t be purely incidental that the disappearance of Wenger’s glasses coincided with the Frenchman being unable to see his players’ malfeasances. Martin O’Neill is clearly a very intelligent man, whilst Iain Dowie has a masters degree in Engineering.
However there really can be only one noggin, and it’s a bit of a no-brainer [ouch – Ed] – the king of Mind Games himself, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Section 2: The eyes. As already mentioned, Arsene Mr Magoo Wenger is a definite non-starter in this category. Despite the glasses, you feel Tony Pulis must have fairly good visual acuity to be able to keep track of the arcing ballistic projectiles sailing through the sky at the Brittania stadium. The years of financial hardship at Everton have clearly taken their toll on David Moyes, whose glare can probably look straight through solid steel.
An honourable mention goes to Gerard Houllier, for the sheer peekability of his eyes, but after a last minute change of heart, the award must go to Ray Wilkins, someone who can literally force a bowel movement in another person just by staring at them. Literally.
Section 3: The hair. In the kingdom of the bald, the one-haired man is king. At least, that’s the motto Alan Shearer lives by, who is by far and away the stand-out candidate in the “taking his hair loss really badly” stakes. Gerry Francis’s receding hairline/wavy mullet combo made him look every inch the ageing 80’s rocker trying to cling on to the glory days, while Ruud Gullit’s dreadlocks were the thin end of the hairy wedge that was driven between him and Newcastle. Steve Wigley bravely sported the bowl cut, possibly in an attempt to distract everyone from the on-pitch catastrophies during his tenure at Southampton.
At the other end of the scale, Lawrie Sanchez’s haircut was as reliable as a Swiss watch, whilst Roy Evans and Chris Hutchings had the quietly stylised Jimmy Tarbuck look going on. However there can only be one King of the Coiff, and what a coiff it is (or was, anyway). That man is Kevin Keegan.
Section 4: The Torso. Without wanting to get too homo-erotic (not that I have a problem with that, mind), there’s been an eclectic mix of upper-bodies in Premier League dugouts. There’s the one-man fanny-magnet Sam Allardyce; I’ve heard many married women say he would be their “one” if they were allowed a fleeting extra-marital encounter. Big Phil Scolari certainly had his admirers, but that was more about the ‘tache. Jose Mourinho was always well dressed and looked very svelte, Arsene Wenger however is worryingly thin.
There’s a confident sexuality about Neil Warnock that’s hard to describe, or think about without vomiting, whilst Sven Goran Eriksson has always had some special power over the ladies, so he must be doing something right. However (and since I’ve lost all pretence in keeping this objective) the torso award goes to the Italian Stallion, Gianluca Vialli.
Section 5: The legs. It’s a sad fact of life for most football fans that we don’t get to see the manager’s legs very often, as usually they’re hidden away by tracksuit bottoms or suit trousers. We’re forced to think long and hard back to their playing days, with mixed results. There was always something chubby and untoward about Steve Bruce’s legs. I’m a big fan of Mick McCarthy’s browbeaten face, but somehow he seems like he has knobbly knees.
So it falls to one man to complete our dream entity, one man who still plays one reserve game a season and who continues to wear to shorts on the touchline – probably just in case he needs to come on at short notice. His team may be sliding towards the abyss, but Mr. Owen Coyle, we’re taking your legs. And you can’t have them back.