I’m sure most Middlesbrough fans are pleased that Gordon Strachan has resigned and walked away without compensation. Our league position tells its own story. It plainly wasn’t working and his increasingly eccentric media interviews revealed a man who looked to be under intense pressure. This didn’t stop a majority of the fans from turning against him in no uncertain terms. Things had started to get unpleasant and nasty.
A manager at a failing club attracts an extraordinary amount of ire and bile, especially when, as at the Boro, he was expected to achieve so much with the investment made.
What we often fail to remember in such times is that the manager concerned is actually a human being with feelings and sensitivities. He’s not a human pineta. He has to go home and sit there, the abuse of the crowd still ringing in his ears, unable to make anything right until the next game. None of us in our ordinary lives know what that must be like. It simply doesn’t happen in other walks of life.
He knows things are not going right. He knows he looks like an idiot for buying these under performing players and setting them up to play so poorly. The stress that comes with such public failure must be hard to bear. It’s no surprise that it might make you behave erratically or oddly. I’m sure I’d go certifiably bonkers and appear in front of the cameras with a pencil up each nostril and a pair of underpants on my head.
In few jobs do you get to fail in front of tens of thousands of people all of whom are willing and able to voice their displeasure towards you. Imagine if that happened in the corporate or local council office. Indeed, in many public buildings you’ll see signs asking you not to abuse the poor worker behind the desk or window. At my local post office collection depot there used to be a handwritten sign saying “Please do not swear at the Royal Mail staff.”
But go to a football ground and such behaviour is welcomed and is all part of the banter of football. All good fun unless you’re the one on the end of the limitless weekly abuse.
When I was watching the Merseyside derby, Roy Hodgson was standing on the touchline, almost paralyzed it seemed, his face set in a look of fearful bewilderment as Liverpool went two down. Only a cold soul could fail to have sympathy for someone in such a position.
All managers end up getting the sack, usually sooner rather than later, so clearly you need to be prepared for that, but when you see a man getting slowly destroyed by his own failure, it’s really a blessed relief when he’s put out of his misery.
It makes you wonder why anyone wants to do it. It always ends in tears.
Editor’s Note: Johnny’s new book: “We Ate All The Pies: How Football Swallowed Britain Whole” has received the massive honour of being listed as one of William Hill’s Sports Book Of The Year 2010 – the biggest, most prestigious sports books prize in UK.