Hunter Davies

New Statesman (1996), February 14, 2000 | Go to article overview

Hunter Davies


I've been away: so what's that they're yelling at Lee Bowyer?

I've been away for three weeks, having my summer hols in the West Indies, but, trying to pick up the pieces again, it seems like I've been away for three years. They cut to a shot of the Southampton manager and I thought goodness, what has David Jones been doing, he's beginning to look like what-sisname, you know, that bloke who used to manage England, ex-Spurs player, what was he called, the born again howsy our father, often wondered what had happened to him -- when blow me, I realised that it was him.

Then I noticed the muppet beside him, the dogged and dutiful John Gorman, stuck in aspic at Glenn Hoddle's right hand, and I thought I'd returned into a time warp, life was going backwards, I was seeing scenes I'd already seen at Swindon, Chelsea and Ingerland. It made sense once I'd got it clear. The Blessed Glenn has become Southampton's new manager. I then saw reference to Cantona coming to manage Fulham. Couldn't believe that. Some mistake surely. Must be one of Max Clifford's little creations, which aren't meant to make sense but fill up column inches on a quiet day. Look out for Cantona running off with Posh Spice or Ginola setting up house with Chris Evans.

Some changes in the past three weeks have been easier to take in -- minor stuff, but the sort that you have to go away in order to spot. You don't notice them when you are watching all the time. Such as Didier Deschamps turning grey or Christian Daley trying to grow a funny beard.

Martin O'Neill is still wearing the same scruffy rugby top as he prowls the touchline, but John Gregory has gone posh and upmarket. I thought it was Ken Bates at first, sitting in the stand in his swanky, moneybags overcoat. Before I went away, Gregory had been relegated to the stands for misconduct and presumably decided to dress the part. Now he's decided to stay in the stand -- it could start a whole new trend for managers.

I always thought that George Graham was sensible to spend at least the first half in the stand. In the dugout you can see so little, only half the game, because your view of the far side is concertinaed and all perspective goes. But Gregory has also realised that a manager can put off his players by standing so close and bellowing at them.

I remember when I used to sit in the dugout at Spurs, alongside the manager and coaches, watching the delight on the face of the winger when it was half-time, knowing that he would be on the other side of the pitch for the second half, out of earshot of the effings and blindings. Wingers have mostly gone; now it's the wing backs who get an earful from the dugout.

I came back from my holiday in time to see replays of Benito Carbone's hat-trick for Aston Villa and a close-up of his body as he stripped off his vest in celebration. …

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