Being a manager does not necessarily mean you have to be friends with your players and Graeme Souness proved that yesterday when he called Craig Bellamy "narky". The Newcastle manager was in open conflict with his Welsh striker almost as soon as he took charge at St James' Park in September but Souness explained he is more than happy with the situation and does not expect it to go away.
The Scot has substituted Bellamy in some games, to the player's obvious displeasure, and played him out of position as well, but Souness says he appreciates that Bellamy's anger hides a will-to-win that he loves.
"Craig is always full of beans," said the Scot. "We had a run-in in the early days and since then I've not had one reason to complain about him.
"He's somebody who hates losing, somebody who oozes enthusiasm in every training session and every game of football we play. He's narky, complains all the time and I love that in players because he's got a desire about him which is very special.
"We will cross swords again, I guarantee it, before very long, but as long as he continues to show me that enthusiasm, that determination to win games, that never-say-die attitude, he and I will never have a lasting problem."
Souness will need the 25-year-old to be at his petulant best in today's early kick-off at Stamford Bridge if the Magpies are to inflict a second Premiership defeat of the season on the League leaders.
However, far from the name-calling in the North-east, Steve Clarke does not see Jose Mourinho following those antagonistic methods. The Chelsea manager has so far taken the Londoners to a healthy, five-point lead at the top of the table without insulting his side.
Earlier this season there were murmurs of disquiet from Premiership fringe players like Scott Parker and Gérémi about their lack of involvement but they have since been given a chance in the League Cup and recent Champions' League fixtures. Clarke, Mourinho's assistant, feels that man-management is one of the Portuguese's talents. He said: "The spirit's great. It's something we work at. Everybody we've got is a top international and it's important how you treat the players when they're not playing.
"You have to keep everybody happy, show that you trust them, that you believe in them. That's one of his biggest strengths. He makes all the players feel wanted." Eyeing up today's lunchtime fixture against his former employers, Clarke emphasised this was a game Chelsea should win and which would turn the screw a little bit more on those chasing behind them, particularly second-placed Arsenal, who they face in eight days' time at Highbury.
He said: "If we win today it will put a little bit more pressure on [Arsenal]. We've been at the top for four weeks and we want to stay there." Yet Clarke also does not believe the title race is over, adding: "There are plenty of horses in this title race - more than two, for sure.
"All we can do is win our matches and see what the rest of the teams do behind us. It's up to them to keep winning to stay in touch. Don't forget, six or seven weeks ago we were in the same position behind Arsenal as they are behind us.
"It's nice to be on top, it's a good feeling and we want to keep that," Clarke adds. "We want the lads to know it's nice to be on top. We want them to feel like they deserve to be top. We want to keep that mentality and keep going."Reuse content