Magazine article The Spectator

The Football Manager as Management Guru

Magazine article The Spectator

The Football Manager as Management Guru

Article excerpt

The football writers laid on a tribute do for Steven Gerrard the other night, not as you might suppose at Nando's - but at the Savoy and very jolly it was too. As someone said, it's about the only honour he's likely to get now, what with playing just for Liverpool and England and all that. Anyway, there were jolly speeches from Gerard Houllier, Gary McAllister and especially Jamie Carragher, who may be tricky to understand but is clearly going to be a considerable force in English football when he locks away his shinpads.

Gerrard didn't make a speech, but did a perfectly inoffensive Q&A with Henry Winter. Hell will freeze before Gerrard knowingly says anything that isn't obliging and inoffensive. More to the point, it would be nice to think that someone who has captained Liverpool and England felt up to making a speech to a few journalists and their wives. The room was full of countless people who would be willing to lend a hand. I remember some years back Frank Lampard making an absolutely brilliant speech at such an event, so good we just shoved it in the paper a few days later. Come on you celebretariat: outlaw the Q&A.

Far more interesting was the opportunity to chew the fat, or at least the sushi and avocado, with the admirable Brian McDermott, manager of beleaguered - or resurgent, depending where you're standing - Reading FC. McDermott is a Heston Blumenthal lookalike with the easy manner of the bloke you like to meet down the pub. But what he's achieved along the M4 is remarkable, and not just because he must have quadrupled his Russian owner's £30-odd million investment. He is a real self-improver and a brilliant man manager. The books he reads are management books, not football ones, and that's the ethos he's brought into Reading.

That's why he doesn't seem intimidated by the challenge of surviving in the top flight even though the odds - and the wage bills, a fraction of most Premier League clubs' - are so stacked against him. …

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