Football: Manager's office where reporters feared to tread

NO AMOUNT of Football Association fog, of which there is an endless supply, can obscure the fact that media skills are up there with tactical acumen and motivational powers in the quest for a permanent coach of the England football team.

Evident from conversations between the FA's chief executive, David Davies, and a number of football writers, it is a jolting reminder of how much things have changed even since the time of such notable managers as Alf Ramsey, Jock Stein, Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Stan Cullis and Bill Nicholson.

Some were more astute than others in dealing with the press and the then infant medium of television but all were quick to jump on betrayals of confidence, inaccuracy and scurrilous reporting.

Maybe things are healthier than they were, maybe not, but it must be difficult for the upcoming generation in this trade to believe that recalcitrant sportswriters were summoned for admonishment to Cullis's office at Molineux.

To give you some idea of the fearful respect in which Cullis was held, a colleague on the Daily Mirror who had driven me from the railway station to seek an interview with the autocratic manager of Wolverhampton Wanderers refused to get out of his car. "Things are going bad for Stan [Cullis was fired 48 hours later] and he is bound to be in a terrible mood," he said. "I just can't face him."

No sportswriter of that time took lightly the notion of offending Busby, who was a much harder man than his reputation suggests. Recalling his days as the Mirror's chief northern sports correspondent, my friend Frank McGhee recalls: "Matt was very generous to young football reporters but anyone who stepped out of line quickly learned that there was no future in getting on the wrong side of him."

Busby was a master of the vocal body swerve, using it to avoid answering questions that might embarrass him and the club.

"Tell me, Sir Matt, is there anything to the rumour that you are about to buy someone?" a reporter might ask.

"Well, son," Busby would reply, with much pausing between syllables, employing the old technique because the rumour was probably true. "This can be a difficult business and you have to stay in touch with what's going on. And how is the golf? Are you hitting it straight? That's the secret. Keeping it on the fairway."

By then Busby would be on the move, leaving a bewildered reporter in his wake.

One of the mistakes that led to Graham Taylor's downfall as England manager was to engage in debates with reporters before matches about selection and strategy. "Madness," I remember saying to Steve Coppell when this happened on the eve of a critical encounter against the Netherlands in Rotterdam that failed to qualify England for the 1994 World Cup finals.

It took me back to England's last match, against Poland in Katowice, before the 1966 finals. After announcing the surprise inclusion of Martin Peters, who had made only one previous representative appearance, Alf Ramsey was asked if he could explain the role set out for the West Ham midfielder. "No," he replied, already rising to leave the room.

More recently, I can remember Franz Beckenbauer, as manager of Germany, leaving intrusive questions unanswered, greeting them with a blank stare. One of Beckenbauer's predecessors, Helmut Schon, once spoke bleakly about the pressure brought to bear by newspaper articles. "It is more than enough at my time [Schon was in his 60th year] to prepare the team," he said. "I understand the needs of the press but it is becoming more and more difficult to cope with their demands."

No England manager has handled the press and television better than Terry Venables, who realised that success does not guarantee protection from factionally subjective criticism. "Whether because of alliances or spite, no matter what is achieved there will always be somebody up against you," he said.

One thing for sure is that managers from the past would not take kindly to today's interminable press conferences. Pointing to Tottenham Hotspur's dressing-room after a European Cup-Winners' Cup defeat in Bratislava their manager, Bill Nicholson, growled: "You're always telling them how good they are, now go and tell them how bad they were." Somehow, I think that way was better.

News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
News
people
Sport
footballArsenal 2 Borussia Dortmund 0: And they can still top the group
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
An unseen image of Kurt Cobain at home featured in the film 'Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck'
filmThe singers widow and former bandmates have approved project
News
Andy Murray with his girlfriend of nine years, Kim Sears who he has got engaged to
peopleWimbledon champion announces engagement to girlfriend Kim Sears
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden and Edwina Currie are joining the I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here! camp
tv
Arts and Entertainment
George Mpanga has been shortlisted for the Critics’ Choice prize
music
News
Albert Camus (left) and Jean-Paul Sartre fell out in 1952 and did not speak again before Camus’s death
people
Arts and Entertainment
Roisin, James and Sanjay in the boardroom
tvReview: This week's failing project manager had to go
News
Ed Miliband visiting the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem. The Labour leader has spoken more openly of his heritage recently
newsAttacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But are the barbs more sinister?
Arts and Entertainment
'Felfie' (2014) by Alison Jackson
photographyNew exhibition shows how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
News
i100
Life and Style
Fright night: the board game dates back to at least 1890
life
Environment
The vaquita is being killed by fishermen trying to catch the totoaba fish, which is prized in China
environmentJust 97 of the 'world's cutest' sea mammals remain
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Warehouse & Business Intelligence Co-ordinator

£35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Required skills include SQL querying, SSRS, u...

Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, PHP, HTML, JavaScript, CSS

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst- Insurance

Negotiable: Argyll Scott International: Senior Business Analyst - Insurance ...

Recruitment Genius: Property Manager

£25000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This independent, growing Sales...

Day In a Page

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game
There's a Good Girl exhibition: How female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising

In pictures: There's a Good Girl exhibition

The new exhibition reveals how female creatives are changing the way women are portrayed in advertising
UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover - from advent calendars to doll's houses

UK firm Biscuiteers is giving cookies a makeover

It worked with cupcakes, doughnuts and macarons so no wonder someone decided to revamp the humble biscuit
Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

Can SkySaga capture the Minecraft magic?

It's no surprise that the building game born in Sweden in 2009 and now played by millions, has imitators keen to construct their own mega money-spinner
The King's School is way ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology

Staying connected: The King's School

The school in Cambridgeshire is ahead of the pack when it comes to using the latest classroom technology. Richard Garner discovers how teachers and pupils stay connected
Christmas 2014: 23 best women's perfumes

Festively fragrant: the best women's perfumes

Give a loved one a luxe fragrance this year or treat yourself to a sensual pick-me-up
Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund: Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition

Arsenal vs Borussia Dortmund

The Ox celebrates century with trademark display of speed and intuition
Billy Joe Saunders vs Chris Eubank Jnr: When two worlds collide

When two worlds collide

Traveller Billy Joe Saunders did not have a pampered public-school upbringing - unlike Saturday’s opponent Chris Eubank Jnr
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?