Heart attacks, pills and no sleep - the manager's life under pressure

It has become a life-threatening profession. Nick Harris talks to managers who have suffered severe problems with their health

"Your arms go a bit numb at first," said Barry Fry yesterday, explaining what it felt like during his two heart attacks. "Then it's like there's a knife being stuck in your chest, and twisted. Then it feels like someone's poured a bucket of tepid water on your head because there's so much sweat. It's horrible, a total panic.

"Your arms go a bit numb at first," said Barry Fry yesterday, explaining what it felt like during his two heart attacks. "Then it's like there's a knife being stuck in your chest, and twisted. Then it feels like someone's poured a bucket of tepid water on your head because there's so much sweat. It's horrible, a total panic.

"If you've got a collar and tie on you just want to rip it off from round your neck and get to hospital," he continued. "The second time, I went to Papworth. I was lying in a ward and there were people dying either side of me. And I'm lying there thinking 'What the hell am I doing here?'

"Even when you've recovered it can stay with you. You get bad indigestion and you're thinking 'Is this another one?' It's frightening."

Fry's first heart attack struck 13 years ago as he was pushing a broken-down Barnet team bus at Gateshead. His second came in 1996, shortly after he took over at Peterborough, where he is now the owner-manager.

Though he bounced back from both heart attacks, Fry says they were "terrifying", and that football management today is never conducive to a relaxing life. He agrees with the vast majority of managers who think their work is much tougher today than 10 years ago.

Managers across all divisions, consulted by The Independent, talk of increasing pressures on health and family life. Southampton's Harry Redknapp has trouble sleeping, and said earlier this year how he would wake early after fitful rest with chest and stomach pains. "In this relegation battle there's nothing in your mind but getting safe," he added recently. "Every minute, every day. Even when you're at home, you're not there mentally."

The major single factor that makes management tougher today is the relentless pressure of being under scrutiny, according to 38 per cent of managers. This is followed by the prevalence and influence of agents (27 per cent), and high-earning players who have too little respect (20 per cent). Other managers cited reasons as varied as "weak directors who make decisions to take pressure off themselves", "no time to develop a club or playing strategies because winning is everything" and "lack of patience from the board".

Fry believes his heart attacks are related to a medical condition linked to the blood clots that prematurely ended his playing career. But, he added that "the demands and pressure of management are unbelievable".

"For the last 13 years I've taken four tablets a day [for my condition] and I now get a check-up once a year. It is a very stressful job. The media alone is ridiculous. It used to be one press conference a week, now it's one a day. Radio stations want to talk, there's TV, websites hammer you to death. Radio phone-ins start two minutes after the final whistle asking whether the manager should go. And I get dog's abuse every match in the dug-out. And that's just from our own fans!

"It's draining, mentally and physically. As a profession it can be full of pressure, loneliness and stress."

Surely after his second heart attack he considered giving up and doing something else? "To be honest, I didn't. Even in hospital I thought 'I'm doing the job I love'. There are lots and lots of lows in this game, but you're in it for the highs, rare as they are.

"I know I've got to look after my health. I was supposed to have a double hip operation last summer but didn't have the time. But I'll get it done You need your health in this job."

Terry Dolan, the former manager of Bradford, Rochdale and Hull, believed himself to be in good health when he went for a check-up at Dr Dorian Dugmore's specialist clinic in 2002, when managing York. Dolan had run the London marathon in 1999, aged 49, but during a walking test on the treadmill, Dugmore suddenly stopped the test.

"I said 'What have you stopped for?'" Dolan said yesterday. "They said 'We need to'. I said 'Why?'. They said 'Your heart rate is 235bpm. If it's like that on a regular basis, you could be in big trouble.'"

Dolan was diagnosed with atrial flutter, the same condition famously suffered by Alex Ferguson, who had a pacemaker fitted, and Tony Blair, who had shock treatment to correct it, as did Dolan. Dolan still follows Dugmore's "Fit to Manage" health programme, where the mantra is: "An ounce of prevention is worth a ton of treatment."

The Independent's managers' survey indicate stresses from all aspects of management, ranging from frustration at the transfer window (82 per cent are against) to raging at perceived timing errors by referees, as Everton's David Moyes did last weekend. Less than half of managers want the referee to be the time-keeper.

Leeds' Kevin Blackwell says: "There's always something - transfers, injuries, players' contracts, the media, players' problems.

"It's rare for me to be able to sit down and watch television at home with my family. The job doesn't allow that. The phone never stops.

"Sometimes I get back in at 1am, and then there are even calls in the middle of the night from abroad," Blackwell admits. "But I don't worry about the stress. I've enough to worry about with the job."

Brentford's Martin Allen, who is married with four children, aged 11 to 16, added: "It takes over your life and has a massive effect on your family. It is all you think about.

"I had a night in a couple of weeks ago and my wife was watching Eastenders. Dirty Den appeared and I said 'Is he still in it?' I didn't know he'd come back. [And doesn't yet realise he's gone again].

"The family are asking what are we doing for Easter," Allen says. "The answer for me is taking training and playing matches at Wrexham on Friday and at home on Monday.

"Is it worth it? You have to pay the bills. Being a player is like having a tree at the end of the garden with gold coins on it. Then when you get to 32, 34, someone chops it down. Suddenly you're in the wide world with 30 working years left. What are you going to do?

"Through managing and coaching I have the opportunity to have another career."

Chester's Ian Rush sums up attitudes in general. He thinks six-day weeks and three weeks off each summer are a recipe for adequately recharging your batteries. "The one time I had a winter break, when I was a Juventus player, I came home and trained with Liverpool and watched games."

Additional reporting: Glenn Moore and Jason Burt

News
people
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Keys to success: Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber
arts + entsMrs Bach had too many kids to write the great man's music, says Julian Lloyd Webber
Arts and Entertainment
Armstrong, left, and Bain's writing credits include Peep Show, Fresh Meat, and The Old Guys
TVBain and Armstrong have presented their unique view of 21st-century foibles in shows such as Peep Show and Fresh Meat
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Hand out press photograph/film still from the movie Mad Max Fury Road (Downloaded from the Warner Bro's media site/Jasin Boland/© 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.)
films'You have to try everything and it’s all a process of elimination, but ultimately you find your path'
Arts and Entertainment
Imelda Staunton as Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films
books

New essay by JK Rowling went live on Pottermore site this morning

News
Russia Today’s new UK channel began broadcasting yesterday. Discussions so far have included why Britons see Russia as ‘the bad guy’
news

New UK station Russia Today gives a very bizarre view of Britain

News
people

Top Gear presenter is no stranger to foot-in-mouth controversy

Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch at the premiere of The Imitation Game at the BFI London Film Festival
filmsKeira Knightley tried to miss The Imitation Game premiere to watch Bake Off
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes