My obsession with football started as a young boy when I began to collect football stickers. Through the collection of these stickers I formulated the kind of professional player I would be when the time came. I didn’t support a football team at the time (stickers also determined this) but I supported players. John Barnes and Gary Lineker were used to cement my future as an England international, left-footed forward with pace.
The manager never really came into my thoughts as a young football fan. Some managers oozed a certain winning mentality but the modern, commonly held belief of the intellectual conductor wasn’t present. The manager was, at best, the motivator, or, at worst, the man that set up the cones at training.
Admittedly, my perception of the game has changed since this early time but I also believe that the story of football has written itself a new narrative with the manager at the forefront. So much so that it’s become cliché to even suggest his importance.
His image is flashed on screen for us countless times throughout a match. Here he is looking anxious before a match, shouting at the players, celebrating a goal, looking stern after an opposition foul, becoming angry about a missed call, or hanging his head in shame over a conceded goal. Many of the major events in a match are put in relation to this man for the viewers. The football still supplies the plot but the manager provides us with our protagonist (or antagonist). Self-proclaimed, die-hard followers of the Premier League would struggle to name the starting goalkeepers, left-backs, or even center-forwards for all twenty sides. Asked to provide the twenty Premier League managers and the task is much easier.
We want to be the manager. Even the modern-day equivalent of stickers, video games, has countless examples of this infatuation with becoming a manager.
There are still children dreaming about that left-foot volley to the corner of the net. Some children may have a different dream these days. They imagine the day their stroke-of-genius deployment of two wing-backs and a holding-midfielder is the real reason for the roar of the crowd.
Gaz Hunt blogs about Liverpool FC, Philadelphia Union, and the general topic of association football at http://gazhunt.blogspot.com/.