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Our Obsession With Football Managers

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.


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  1. vw

    March 10, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    I think roman or sheik is up there as well. I’m sure there are plenty of lads dreaming of buying their favourite club and buying top talent left, right, and centre for it.

  2. MNUfan1991

    March 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm

    Because football managers are such colorful characters.

    SAF, Voyeur, FSW, the Special One, McCarthy, Holloway… it’s like a soap opera for men. Sometimes the drama is better than the football.

    • Kevin

      March 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

      We need a Mad Men-style TV show about top-flight football managers.

      • Gaz Hunt

        March 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm

        But they have always probably been colourful characters. Why do children now want to grow up to be a manager instead of a player? Why the jump in popularity?

        I think that television coverage, improvement in media analysis, and a shift in the way pundits and commentators view the game now-a-days (see the Detailing The Pyramid article posted above) play a huge role in creating a new narrative in football that revolves around the manager not the player (specifically the center-forward) anymore.

  3. Sean

    March 10, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Am I the only one that thinks the internet has a lot to do with today’s popularity of the manager?

    In the past, well, at least in North America, we were inundated with a series of boring clichés and commentators that really did not offer up much depth. Now, there are numerous avenues online that one can go to to understand the true nature of football.

    What’s more, we are blessed with with people that are willing to share tactical information with us like the likes of Jonathan Wilson (whose must read book Inverting The Pyramid got a mention on this site today) and the guy behind the amazing website There are numerous others one can mention but, I do not want to bore people with a list of sites and books. Odds are many of you know of them already anyway.

    I loved football before genuine detailed tactical discussions became common place but, reading about and truly understanding tactics have taken my love for the game to heights I never imagined it would reach.

    • Dave C

      March 10, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      Does anyone else think Zonal Marking has jumped the shark a little bit? I mean it’s still got very well-informed and insightful match reports, and the level of intelligence in the comments section is generally very high, but I miss the early days when it had more generalist pieces about tactical trends, the evolution of particular positions etc etc. Nowadays it seems to be only match reports.

      I guess there are only so many trends and positions to write about until there’s nothing left to do but write match reports.

      • Gaz Hunt

        March 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm

        I think you hit in it right there.

        After the initial influx of articles discussing trends that were over-looked or dismissed over the years, there may not be too much more to say unless we wait a few years. Unless Kenny Dalglish comes out with a 2-man defense, it’s been said for now.

  4. jacob

    March 10, 2011 at 9:13 am

    well times have changed and i know some kids who want to be a manager instead of player and i ask why and they say ” because of mourinho”

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