But it's not just the carcoat generation of football managers who are feeling the pinch this week for, as we float across to sunny Liverpool, the grim moustache of Graeme Souness looms pitifully in our sights. Trounced 2-0 by Bolton Wanderers, doomed to mid-table mediocrity, and unable to sell all those deadbeats they bought for millions of pounds over the odds, Liverpool are finally having to face up to the fact that they're no good any more. Everyone else, of course, is hugely amused to see 20 years of Merseyside triumphalism - Anfield, Goodison Park, Brookside, Cilla Black - come to nothing. It's been a long wait, but a fruitful one.
All of which proves, of course, what all sensible people know already: that being a football manager is a mug's game. Everyone thinks they can do it, and virtually no one can. Even the few who can, can't. And look at some of the people who have managed to hold down jobs over the years. Tommy Docherty. Malcolm Allison. Bobby 'Rattling Dentures' Robson. Most of the 1970-71 Leeds side (though none of them for very long). Alan Ball. Various sad ex- midfield maestros who later became Senior Sales Executives (North Lincolnshire Region) for foot-salve manufacturers and double-glazing distribution companies. Here is a job for which no candidate ever seems properly qualified. Every appointment seems like an outrageous shot in the dark, either because the person appointed has no experience, or because he has too much experience, having been fired 43 times from other clubs (three times from QPR). If someone's a brilliant coach, they say he's no good at the administrative side of things. If he's a skilled boardroom apparatchik, they say he's not much cop as a coach. If he's too young, he's too young. If he's not young, he's past it. And if he's not been a manager for a while, having worked 'outside the game' for a stretch, people start gossiping about his inability to sell foot-salve in North Lincolnshire. You simply can't win.
So what can Clough and Souness do? They have many choices. There is, for instance, the Kenny Dalglish approach - get yourself a reputation for being anguished and tormented (so that everyone feels guilty about being nasty to you), and then get a chairman who has the GNP of Portugal to spend on new players. Alternatively, if you're strapped for cash, there's nothing like a really huge pair of new cuff-links to instil a bit of respect in your team. Ron Atkinson may look a bit odd, but no one's talking about firing him - and his cuff-links are bigger than some players' cars.
In the end, though, it's still a mug's game, and I'm sure both Souness and Clough will feel relieved when the burden is finally lifted. In fact, someone should tell their teams this. After all, two or three more pathetic home defeats to second-rate opposition could well do the trick . . .Reuse content