Ken Jones: How to decode managerial doublespeak

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At this time of the year, with things warming up on every front, we can expect our credulity to be stretched by the most insidious form of double-entry book-keeping - the football manager's quotes.

At this time of the year, with things warming up on every front, we can expect our credulity to be stretched by the most insidious form of double-entry book-keeping - the football manager's quotes.

This is the all-purpose statement put out not only to pacify the punters after a poor performance and keep them coming, but gloss over behaviour unbecoming to professional athletes. Anyone who believes a manager's mid-season quotes gets a lifetime supply of fortune cookies to play the stock market and a card that entitles him to buy the London Eye wholesale.

It's not the manager's intent to deceive himself or his employers. It's the customers he's trying to get to bite on a bad pass. In his heart, he knows the limitations of his team. The idea is to keep the fans or the press from knowing it. The watchword must be unbridled optimism. Attendance figures must be protected even if it spoils your appetite just to think about the team.

There are several handy euphemisms which can be called into service to conceal athletic bankruptcy. Here are some of the most common, followed by their real meanings:

"Our midfield matches any in the Premier League". - "It's got this nice green grass and manicured lines. It's the players running on it who are not so hot."

"The players did their best but we couldn't get going." - "Dumb bastards didn't have an idea in their heads. They ran around like headless chickens. The way things are going I'll be out of work before the end of the season."

"I believe in treating players like adults." - "The only way to get some of these guys in bed before midnight is to put a groupie into it."

"Our right winger reminds me of Tom Finney." - "And Finney is only 82."

"Our bench is much improved." - "We painted it last summer. The players sitting on it are as bad as ever."

"We're taking each game as it comes." - "We're in a slump."

"We'll be up for this one." - "The players got to bed for a change."

"Chelsea are just human." - "And Nijinsky was just a horse and a lion is just a cat."

"We're not afraid of anybody." - "That's right. We're afraid of everybody."

"These guys have two legs and two arms, same as us." - "We're in for a slaughtering."

"If all else fails, we'll think ourselves out of trouble." - "Sure, I've got players who order from a menu by pointing, two who have trouble reading road signs. Anyway if you could beat Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United by out-thinking them Oxford University would be playing in the Premiership."

"I didn't see the incident when our man was sent off." - "Happened right in front of me. What an idiot. When I told him to put their centre-forward out of the game I didn't mean permanently."

"I don't begrudge the money top players now get. They deserve it." - "Greedy bastards don't know when they are well off. Always looking for more. I've got guys on 20 grand a week who wouldn't have got a game 30 years ago."

"Nothing wrong with our goalkeeper." - "He's driving me mad. Six feet two inches standing up, five feet six when he jumps. His feet stay so close to the floor it's no wonder the lads call him 'lino'."

"I wasn't entirely happy with the referee but they have a difficult job." - "Blind as a bat. A card-happy buffoon. Where do they get these people from?"

"Our disciplinary record could be better." - "I'm fed up with the same guys missing matches. It's time for some of the others to start putting a foot in."

"We're sending two of our players to a specialist." - 'Yeah, a psychiatrist. Their problems are not from the neck down, they're from the eyes up. They should put them in a Jacuzzi upside down."

You see, it's seldom the God's honest truth we hear and read. But then, in this age of double-talk, I find myself in agreement with the old sportswriter who liked to say: "Very little matters, and nothing matters much."

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