Prompted by the return of unparalleled egoist and British media darling, Jose Mourinho, I recently discussed the respective foibles of some of the Premier league's bigger managerial characters. The conclusion I reached was that in comparison with David Moyes, Andre Villas Boas, Sam Allardyce, Arsene Wenger and
Baron Von Greenback Martin Jol, Brendan Rodgers wasn't such a bad fellow and we might, perhaps, allow ourselves to be grateful for the manager we have at the helm, rather than pillorying the Northern Irishman at every turn. It's a perspective thing, you see. How then, will Rodgers fare in comparison to the rest of the league's gaffers?
As horribly reductive as it may be, it is tempting to divide this group of gents, rogues and ne'er do wells into handy, tabloid-friendly categories, and as I am not strong enough to resist temptation of any kind, that is exactly how I shall partition them. The clearest classification to emerge is that particular category of Managerius Premierus denotable due to their passports.
The Bloody Foreigners
When Paolo Di Canio arrived back in the Premier League as a replacement for sideline pogo-specialist, Martin O'Neill at Sunderland, it was amidst a highly regrettable furore brought about by the Italian's self-admitted right-wing leanings. To be fair, Di Canio doesn't so much lean, as power-slide aggressively whilst fist-pumping, to the right. His political affiliations matter little to the average fan, but his patented look at me, I just won ALL THE THINGS celebration of each goal his side scores is very definitely irking many, your humble correspondent amongst them. Mourinho, that master of funnelling attention his way, no doubt approves.
By contrast, Mauricio Pochettino is almost demure in his technical area at St. Mary's. He stands there, resplendent in his nausea-inducing, sartorial trainwreck of match-coat and skinny jeans, and seems to simply will his team to victory. Pochettino communicates only via an interpreter and it is hard to know whether this tells us he is shy or sly. Giovanni Trappatoni's spectacular arrogance means that five years after taking the Ireland job he still needs the delightful Manuela at his shoulder to manage even the most rudimentary interview. One suspects both men exploit the language barrier with at least a touch of cynicism.
No such communication issues for Michael Laudrup or Roberto Martinez. Laudrup has the easy confidence and self-possession of a man who was once one of the globe's very finest footballers. His well preserved looks, topped off by that immaculate hair and sharp but casual attire, add to his suave deportment. Rumours abound of tensions between Laudrup and Swansea chairman, Huw Jenkins. The Welshman would do well to appease the Dane, as he is likely to be sought-after this summer.
Martinez must surely be in the running for the Nicest Bloke in Football award. Having recently taken over from noted "winner" David Moyes at the Purple's Club, the Spaniard promised Everton chairman Bill Kenwright Champions League football. He may live to regret such hubris but his overall pleasantness will probably see him through any rough patches. Were my daughter to announce a medical condition which could only be cured by marriage to a football manager, Laudrup and Martinez would be my son-in-law material. Nice, neat well-spoken lads.
This leaves the incoming Manchester City boss, Manuel Pellegrini. City have not been too adventurous in this appointment, when one looks at it from a certain perspective. Fringe-botherer and Italian silver-fox, Roberto Mancini is simply replaced by Chilean silver-fox and magnificent mane-sporter, Pellegrini. We await evidence of the former Malaga man's personality but if his eminently patient response to the hectoring of Sky Sports is anything to go by, then Manuel Pellegrini is a very cool gent indeed.
The Token Irishman
David O'Leary and Mick McCarthy have previously played this role. The current incumbent, Chris Hughton of Norwich, was amongst the best full-backs I've seen play for the Republic of Ireland and his efforts as a manager, after years as an assistant, have been very impressive. Hughton, of course, was/is one of those Jack Charlton-era Ireland internationals whose English accents were offset by their Irish grannies. That was fine by me. What of it? We got to a World Cup quarter final, y'know. Hughton receives a shamelessly biased authorial pass.
The Obligatory Scottish Contingent
It would appear to be some unwritten law of the cosmos, that the English top flight will have a scattering of Scottish managers, particularly Glaswegians, that is utterly out of proportion to that country's small population. Several analysts have come up with the same condescending theory about tough upbringings and learning on the streets, but frankly that's insulting hogwash. It's clearly down to their gruff accents and growling delivery. That's far more likely and not at all tenuous.
Whatever the reason, alongside Moyes this campaign, will be Paul Lambert at Aston Villa, Malky Mackay of newly promoted Cardiff and ex Reds coach, Steve Clarke at West Bromwich Albion. Mackay is the least well known of the bunch. He is invariably besuited and well-spoken. To date there have been no histrionics and his demeanour has been as measured and calm as one might expect from a former centre-half. I predict it'll be only three weeks before he's brawling with Di Canio or doing post-match pressers with wild eyes and a dishevelled appearance. Welcome to the Premier League Malky, lad.
His two countrymen have done some outstanding work on behalf of managerial dishevelment. Paul Lambert has taken over Martin O'Neill's less-than-elegant line in collared sweatshirts and tracksuit bottoms. He peers warily at the media from behind his glasses, always primed for a slight or an insult. The former Borussia Dortmund enforcer was a massive success at Norwich but has struggled to make Villa as consistent. To these eyes, Lambert is one with massive potential for an on-camera melt-down in the season ahead.
Steve Clarke has made West brom less one-dimensional than they had been under football visionary, Roy Hodgson and he has overseen an unsurprising defensive rigour. Clarke seems a very personable man, who rations his smiling in a very thrifty way, but to me, despite his de rigeur suit/knitwear combo, he always looks haggard, as though his missus has chucked him out and he's been sleeping in his car. Those swarthy foreign types do stubble well. Pale Scot's, however, simply look bedraggled.
The Absurdly Small English Crew
English managers are not necessarily easy to find in the English top division. Aside from Allardyce only Alan Pardew and new arrivals Ian Holloway and Steve Bruce are natives. Pardew is, by all accounts, a very pleasant chap and it's hardly his fault that his line in chat managed to convince rotund cockney millionaire and Newcastle kingpin, Mike Ashley, to offer him an eight year contract. What is his fault is the hideous face rug he began to cultivate last season before wisely abandoning it. Now, I'm a proud facial furniture devotee myself, but that thing made Pardew look like Captain Birdseye's younger, less outdoorsy and more introspectively tortured brother.
Steve Bruce has got a unusual head. It's large and seems to be under pressure. He is possessed of the face of a man who has lived; a man who has lived a lot. Bruce's club career has been promiscuous and his latest port-of-call is Hull. He is one of the original Ferguson lieutenants and won't be in any way fazed by the Premier League, even when the Kop sing their touching paean to that bulbous noggin.
This brings us, finally, to Ian Holloway who recently piloted Crystal Palace to the Premier League via a dramatic play-off final. Holloway will be second only to the Portuguese eye-gouger when it comes to putting smiles on journalists' faces. He is a quote machine. His particular line in banter is straight from the dressing room -- it is unreconstructed and laddish and often very funny.
My issue with Holloway is that he never seems to stop. He cannot do a perfunctory press conference. He always seems to need to entertain the assembled hacks. He reminds me of a chap I worked with -- a nice bloke, but overly replete with nervous energy and always trying to shoehorn humour into the most banal and dour events. I seriously contemplated strangling him once on a three hour car journey home from a funeral.
As I said then, this is an odd bunch of gentlemen but their accumulated strops, jokes, rages and indignant sulks will keep us entertained immensely as next season unfolds. Just don't tell Holloway I said that -- you'll only encourage him.