I Was Often Too Close to That Line Dividing Sanity and Insanity; SATURDAY INTERVIEW

Daily Mail (London), March 20, 2004 | Go to article overview

I Was Often Too Close to That Line Dividing Sanity and Insanity; SATURDAY INTERVIEW


Byline: MATT LAWTON

CONFESSION time with Paul Sturrock and the Southampton manager needs to say at least five Hail St Marys.

He admits to his failings as a father, his flirtations with insanity, his hunger for good food and his thirst for good wine, and the reasons why he suffers from insomnia.

Sturrock is sitting in his office at Southampton's training ground when he then owns up to what he ranks as two more sporting sins.

Not only did he lose his temper during Sunday's Premiership win against Liverpool, but he celebrated his side's goals as well. It was, he insists, completely out of character.

'If we score at Portsmouth this weekend you won't see me doing that again,' says a slightly embarrassed Sturrock. 'I don't normally celebrate goals. I'm normally too busy thinking about some aspect of the game. But after the whole build-up to the Liverpool match the goals just acted as a kind of release.'

Sturrock's appointment at Southampton was sudden and unexpected, but there were nine days between his arrival from Plymouth Argyle and his debut as a Premiership manager and the wait proved intolerable.

'Normally you get a game within two or three days,' he says, 'but it wasn't until a few days into the job I even met the players. I found that difficult.' Sturrock lives by certain rules, as he has done from the moment the pains across his chest became so intense he collapsed in the dug- out at Dundee United nine years ago. At the time he was managing St Johnstone, and his staff thought he was having a heart attack after a trademark touchline tantrum.

TESTS revealed nothing more than an extreme case of hyperventilation but Sturrock, now 47, realised that his life had to change. He had become too obsessive about his work, too prone to over-excitement. He was, by his own admission, a control freak.

In the end he sat down and listed 20 transgressions he would endeavour to avoid repeating. He reminded himself of them again before the Liverpool game.

Then, however, came the actual contest.

'Mentally, I approached the game very quietly,' he says. 'It was my intention to simply sit back, watch and learn. But our performance in the first half just wasn't Premiership standard. We seemed to be like a rabbit caught in the headlights and it took me aback.

'I surprised myself, but things happened that couldn't be tolerated. Things had to be said, and it's fair to say we had words at halftime. But they responded very well.' He assures me the days of throwing teacups are long gone. 'There is a fine line between sanity and insanity and I was often close to crossing that line,' he says.

'We Scots get excited, but I'd get too excited. It was the pressure of the job, wanting to do well in my first management job. I was doing all the coaching in training, taking the kids at night, running the club from top to bottom. There was a lack of delegation, and I was stupid.

MY FEELING was that if I wanted something to be done well, I'd have to do it myself. I'd been coaching from the age of 17, got my badges when I was 25, and didn't recognise that there were some very good coaches in this country. …

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