IAN LADYMAN: Spite and venom have always been aimed at managers
IAN LADYMAN: Spite and venom have ALWAYS been aimed at managers… It now just comes in a different form via social media, rather than phone-ins, fanzines and letters
- Football management at the top level is a brutal game and always has been
- It’s a sapping trade that leaves little room for the gentler things in life
- Many managers expressed empathy for Steve Bruce after his Newcastle sacking
The first manager I worked with, for the Nottingham Evening Post in 1996, was Colin Murphy of Notts County.
He was eccentric, unpredictable and a little intimidating but after he was sacked he wrote me a kind letter, wishing me well. Another essentially decent bloke, briefly bent out of shape by the pressure of management.
Since then I have spent 25 years watching many more such people pass through the game. Some thriving, others merely surviving. Some coping, many more sadly not.
Steve Bruce received plenty of abuse before his sacking from Newcastle this month
Football management is a brutal, sapping trade that leaves little room for the gentler things in life.
Which brings me to Steve Bruce and Mikel Arteta.
Bruce has finally walked the plank at Newcastle United and those who know him will be glad it’s over. The job had been damaging him for months.
Many managers expressed empathy but Arteta — and indeed David Moyes — went further. Arteta, the Arsenal manager, said young men would be dissuaded from joining the profession by the criticism and abuse that comes with it. Moyes said: ‘People don’t understand the implications of hearing people talk about us every day.’
It is important to listen to these testimonies. They are from the people actually living this particular life. But is it a life significantly more unpleasant now than it ever was? I am not so sure.
It is said social media has given every idiot a voice. There is something in that, but places like Twitter and Facebook are a threat to all of us, whatever we choose to do or be in life.
As for the voices, they have always been there. On the terraces that were once so much closer to the pitch, in the local Saturday football papers that used to flood the streets at full time and via other mainstream media.
As for the phone-ins, well here’s something that will make us all feel old. BBC Radio 5 Live’s 606 show is 30 years old this winter, while talkSPORT is 20 now. Fantasy Football League — the brilliant but occasionally cruel comedy vehicle driven by Frank Skinner and David Baddiel — was launched on the BBC in 1994.
Meanwhile, football fanzines, often operating outside the usual restrictions of the libel laws, predate all of the above.
So the notion that the only folk football managers were taking flak from before the day Mark Zuckerberg outgrew short pants were blokes in flat caps standing behind the goal is palpably false. The spite, the venom and the clear unfairness of it all have always been there.
Believe it or not, supporters even used to write letters to the man in charge of their team. Remember that concept? The braver among the profession used to read all of them. Some would even write back.
The others? Well they would ask their secretary to open and read them. The milder ones would make it to the manager’s desk, the rest only the bin.
The same principles serve us now. As Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said the best way to deal with social media hate is not to look at it. It is an evil that is criminally under-policed. Anybody moved to engage with it should understand the risks.
For sure, Bruce has suffered and it’s been hard to watch. My colleague Craig Hope has long been insistent he was not good enough for the Newcastle job.
Bruce thinks Craig was unfair and his criticism too enthusiastic.
Ultimately, that is an argument between two grown-ups.
In the end, though, what does for most men who start to suffer from the pressures of the job are results. This is always the trigger.
The malignant forces from within football are possibly greater now. The warped financial structure of our game makes certain jobs almost impossible. Players have more power, owners less patience.
But the noise from the outside? Has it not always been there, just in a different form?
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