Pressure bound to ruffle feathers of a football manager

Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson is not the first football manager to lose his cool with reporters. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.)Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson is not the first football manager to lose his cool with reporters. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.)
Leicester City manager Nigel Pearson is not the first football manager to lose his cool with reporters. (Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.)
Nigel Pearson’s bizarre “ostrich” rant against a reporter caused a bit of a stir. But, as Chris Bond points out, he’s not the first football manager to lose his cool.

WHO would be a football manager these days?

In years gone by if you said something amiss the chances were it wouldn’t get reported. But in today’s digital era being a top football manager is a 24 hour job – where your every word is picked up and can go viral in the time it takes just to fire off a tweet.

The sport has become a massive multi-million pound business and Premier League managers must find it difficult keeping a lid on their emotions at times, especially straight after losing an important match.

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There’s even more pressure at this time of year during what’s known as “the business end of the season”, or “squeaky bum time” to use Sir Alex Ferguson’s phrase, when the winners and losers are decided.

With so much riding on results it’s perhaps understandable that coaches sometimes crack under the pressure. Just about every top manager, from Jose Mourinho to Arsene Wenger, has had a run-in with the press over something that’s been reported.

Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal has only been in the hot seat at Old Trafford for one season but has already bristled at criticism of his tactics. Speaking ahead of one of match, the Dutchman explained his rationale by referring to a printed handout featuring diagrams and data, which was then distributed to the assembled journalists.

But even in football’s weird and wonderful world, Nigel Pearson’s rant against a journalist this week must rank as one of the most bizarre.

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The Leicester City manager was speaking to the media after he’d seen his team lose to Chelsea and took exception to being asked what criticism of his players had upset him over the season.

“Have you been on holiday for six months? Have you been away for six months?” Pearson said to the reporter.

“I think you must have either your head in the clouds, or been away on holiday, or reporting on a different team, because if you don’t know the answer to that question... your question is absolutely unbelievable, the fact you do not understand where I am coming from.

“If you don’t know the answer to that question then I think you are an ostrich. Your head must be in the sand. Is your head in the sand? Are you flexible enough to get your head in the sand? My suspicion would be no.”

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Pearson, a former Sheffield Wednesday player, later apologised to the reporter and was also big enough to do it in front of the cameras. “I wasn’t happy with losing the game, there we are. I don’t like losing,” he said.

But he’s not the first manager to take umbrage with a reporter’s line of questioning, and he certainly won’t be the last.

One of the most spectacular rants in recent times involved the former Newcastle United manager Joe Kinnear. In his first official press conference he unleashed an astonishing foul-mouthed tirade in front of journalists.

He felt aggrieved at the way some of them had covered the story of his appointment and left them in no doubt as to what he thought.

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It’s almost 20 years since another Newcastle manager, Kevin Keegan, lost his cool as the race for the Premier League title headed towards its denouement. His team saw a 12 point lead over rivals Man United slowly disappear and as the championship slipped away he famously said on camera that he would “love it if we beat them, love it.”

Since then football has become an even bigger corporate behemoth, but it’s easy to forget that at the end of the day it is still a sport. So the next time a manager feels the red mist descend perhaps they should slowly count to 10, or, in the words of that well-known Disney movie Frozen, just “let it go.”