Football managers demonstrate a nice touch in the library

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The Independent Culture

With their dislike of adverbs and habit of using phrases such as "game of two halves" and "the lads done well", football managers and the English language have often enjoyed a fraught relationship.

Yet beneath the veneer of clichés and grammar-mangling sentences lies a community of literature lovers whose inspiration is sought from sources as diverse as Ernest Hemingway and the Bible.

That at least is the conclusion offered by the response of 15 football managers to a survey which suggests that the nation's football gaffers like nothing better after a hard day at the training ground concocting set-pieces than sitting down with a good book.

The study of managers' favourite books, conducted by the National Football Museum in Preston, provides a new set of clues as to the mindset of the nations' tactical geniuses.

As he ponders Chelsea's exit from the Champions' League at the hands of would-be footballing deities Barcelona, Jose Mourinho is likely to be seeking solace from the gospels. The Chelsea manager, who underlined his own god-like aspirations by once declaring himself "the Special One", may have been seeking role models when he declared the Bible as his favourite read.

Two managers known for their more muscular approach to the beautiful game reveal suitably testosterone-fuelled tomes.

Paul Jewell, the manager of Premiership side Wigan, opted for Andy McNab's Bravo Two Zero about a doomed SAS patrol in the first Gulf War, while Sam Allardyce, the manager of Bolton Wanderers and a candidate for the England job, chose The Soul of a Butterfly - a collection of Muhammad Ali's contemplations.

Curators at the museum, who have set up an exhibition showing the letters of reply from the managers, expressed the hope that visitors may be spurred by the choices of their managerial heroes to acquire the literary habit themselves.

Mark Bushell, spokesman for the museum, said: "It's fascinating to see who has inspired the leading names in English football. We hope that visitors will be similarly inspired to pick up some of the titles."

Quite whether they had in mind the choices of David O'Leary, the manager of Aston Villa, and the recently departed Newcastle boss Graeme Souness, is unclear. They recommended Jeffrey Archer's Kane and Abel and Frederick Forsyth's The Fourth Protocol respectively.

Fans of even the most obscure books may be thwarted by the choice of the Charlton manager Alan Curbishley - Bobalong the Brownie Man, by Agnes Grozier Herbertson, which was last in print in 1953.

Among the more cerebral texts exercising footballing minds were Animal Farm, George Orwell's political fable about Stalinist Russia, chosen by the Everton manager David Moyes, and The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway, chosen by Martin Jol of Tottenham.

Critics of Sir Alex Ferguson, the Manchester United boss, would argue that his only chance of additional silverware this season lies within the pages of his preferred read - Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island.

The thrill of unravelling a mystery will also surely be of little comfort to Mick McCarthy as he recovers from his sacking as Sunderland's manager this week by picking up Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

But anyone seeking parallels between life in the higher echelons of English football and literature need look no further than Wayne Rooney, the only player to have responded to the survey. What could a boy wonder, whose talents are looked upon jealously by mortals, possibly proffer as an influential work? Harry Potter.

* Jose Mourinho (Chelsea): The Bible

* David Moyes (Everton): Animal Farm - George Orwell

* Sir Alex Ferguson (Manchester United): Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson

* Martin Jol (Tottenham Hotspur): Old Man and the Sea - Ernest Hemingway

* Paul Simpson (Carlisle United): Billy - Pamela Stephenson

* Hope Powell (England women's manager): I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings - Maya Angelou

* Steve Cotterill (Burnley): Beyond Winning (Human Kenetics) - Gary M Walton

* David O'Leary (Aston Villa): Kane and Abel - Jeffery Archer

* Graham Souness (formerly Newcastle United): Fourth Protocol - Frederick Forsyth

* Steve Bruce (Birmingham City): Frank Sinatra 'Biography' - Martin Smith

* Sam Allardyce (Bolton Wanderers): The Soul of a Butterfly - Muhammad Ali

* Billy Davies (Preston): Sacred Hoops - Phil Jackson

* Alan Curbishley (Charlton): Bobalong the Brownie Man - Agnes Grozier Herbertson

* Mick McCarthy (formerly Sunderland): The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown

* Paul Jewell (Wigan): Bravo Two Zero - Andy McNab

* Wayne Rooney (Manchester United): Harry Potter Series - J K Rowling