THE GAFFER: THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF A FOOTBALL MANAGER BY NEIL WARNOCK – Available at Amazon for £8.00 (paperback) or £4.99 (ebook)
I like Neil Warnock – there, I’ve said it and got it off my chest and I await the brickbats that are sure to fall around my head when you read this, but the truth is that I have always admired him for his success in the game and determination to get the best out of every team that he has managed.
I also felt that he showed good sportsmanship when, back in 1995, after Brentford’s shocking Playoff defeat on penalties to Huddersfield he took the time and trouble to shake the hand of every Brentford player as they either lay on the ground or left the pitch in a state of utter despair.
There was no gloating or over-celebrating and for that I admired him.
So when I saw that his latest book was out in paperback I couldn’t resist buying it – and I am very glad that I did.
I would describe Neil Warnock as marmite – the manager you love to hate when his team plays yours but conversely somebody you know will get your own team organised, structured and winning games if he is in charge of your own club.
The football might well be limited and fairly unsophisticated but he makes the most out of what he has and his teams aren’t half organised and never give up.
More importantly he has been a manager for over 30 years so he has been at the forefont of so many changes in how the game is played, how footballers’ attitudes have changed and how the manager’s job has evolved.
He is certainly a traditionalist but he is by no means a dinosaur in his approach although there is much that he bemoans about the way footballers behave and the cosseting that they require nowadays.
The book covers the end of his time at Crystal Palace and how they coped with administration before dealing with his stay at Queens Park Rangers and how he led them to promotion and dealt with all the massive egos and politicking on and off the pitch.
He describes in tortuous detail how he came to lose his job at Loftus Road – something he is naturally bitter about – before his brief and ultimately unsuccessful stay at Leeds.
Yes of course this book is opinionated and yes, there is generally another scapegoat when things go wrong and he is not too quick to criticise himself, but the book provides a wonderfully evocative and thorough insight into the trials and tribulations of how a manager has to cope with the modern day footballer and his temperament as well as all the outside influences.
You need to take some things with a pinch of salt but the book is well put together, has captured his voice perfectly and is never less than fascinating.
If we are talking about opinionated, then Eamon Dunphy might well be near the top of most people’s list.
Some of you might remember him as a skilful, slightly built midfield play-maker at Manchester United, York, Millwall and Reading and then as the author of a groundbreaking account of the angst and reality of being a footballer.
“Only a Game?” changed the way I looked at the sport and opened my eyes as to how footballers thought and were treated – generally as replaceable serfs. Published over forty years ago it is as fresh and relevant today as it was then.
When I was at university I used to watch him play at Reading where he orchestrated a team containing the wild, untamed talent of the mercurial Robin Friday to promotion from Division Four.
He seldom wasted a pass and he was always in possession, cajoling and encouraging and keeping the ball moving – an inside forward from the old school who deservedly won twenty-three International caps for Eire.
Knowing how garrulous and articulate he is, I eagerly awaited the publication of his new book which was well worth waiting for.
“The Rocky Road” is again beautifully written and indeed paints elegiac pictures of his poor but happy childhood.
It then provides the best written account I have read about a football career and how he served at the whim and behest of a variety of megalomaniac managers and chairmen.
Not without learning pains, he then reinvents himself as a writer and journalist where he is not slow to castigate cant and hypocrisy wherever he finds it.
There is much here about his feud with Jack Charlton who he thinks brought Irish football back into the dark ages despite his success.
The book ends abruptly in 1990 so there is hopefully more to come and more gaps to fill.
I have to say that a proportion of this book was lost on me, dealing as it does with the Dublin political and media scene, but more than enough remained for me to luxuriate over – a lovely, lyrical and thought provoking read that demonstrated Dunphy against the world and how he sometimes but not always came out on top.
Finally, much closer to home fellow Bees Blogger and former match day programme contributor, Nick Bruzon has published his own individual and wonderfully idiosyncratic account of last season’s triumphs at Brentford FC.
Nick’s writing is fresh and engaging and his account is breezy, well written, amusing, insightful and never less than fascinating.
His diary ranges well beyond matters at Griffin Park and he uses the framework of the happenings both on and off the pitch at Griffin Park to cover many of his favourite hobby horses.
I hoovered this down in an evening and was left wanting more, always a good sign.
This little gem deserves a wider audience than just Brentford fanatics and is highly recommended.
In passing I should also say that reading Nick’s work over the last year helped motivate and inspire me to start writing my own blog – so he really does have something to answer for!