Grass Roots is new mocumentary following fictitious League Two football club Greystone Athletic as they partake in the FA’s investigation into the current state of the English game. Centred on downtrodden club manager Harry Pickles (Ed Aczel), we follow Greystone through the often comic trials and tribulations of life in football’s lower tiers.
Ahead of the Grass Roots launch on London Live this Sunday at 9pm, we caught up with fictional manager Harry Pickles to talk philosophy, wine and WAGs:
Outside of football, who is your greatest inspiration?
Here’s one that might surprise you – Gary Barlow. Both of us have come in from the harsh winters of our lives and ended up reaping the benefits of life experience. He tops charts and I top tables. I think we would get on quite well actually.
How would you describe your management style?
Liberating. I encourage my players to get the ball down and play. I’ve been accused of many things from other managers in the past but we knock the ball around like a pin ball machine at times. To put it into one word, I’d have to say ‘glossy’.
What’s your proudest moment in football?
I once nutmegged Kevin Keegan in a charity match. I won’t forget that in a hurry. It was really funny because afterwards I went up to him and said, “Did you see me pop that through your legs, Kevin?” and he said “Yes”. It was great fun.
Do you have ambitions to manage at a higher level?
Of course. It will be a hard decision to make when that happens.
What is your proudest achievement in the game?
Winning the league last year would be up there. We had some real rotters in the side early doors but I got us playing. The 3-6-1 formation I got us playing in the winter away days worked a treat.
How would you like people to see Greystone Athletic?
From a seat in the stadium please.
What’s the most important aspect of a manager’s job?
Decision making. You make the wrong decision and there can be hell to pay. I once played a prank on my one of the lads and told him to bulk up or leave the club. He got a hernia lifting a medicine ball. You live and learn.
What do you do to motivate the players?
It depends on the player. Some of them need a firm hand. I’m never physical with a player but they need to know I am a threat. The dressing room is the jungle and I am king. Some just need a cuddle. I get my assistant to handle them. Not enough time for me to be acting like Mother Theresa.
How would you feel if a foreign owner wanted to change the club name to the Greystone Giants?
Not for me all this re-branding. Sure re-brand a coffee chain or go from Jif to Cif but Greystone is a heart and soul club that shouldn’t be having its name changed for any reason. Foreign mega bucks or no foreign mega bucks.
What role do WAGs play at your football club?
I encourage them to be honest, but obviously the type of woman is important. I would rather my lads be settled down with a pushy, ‘career minded’ female, or male, than spending all their time in clubs looking for loose women. We don’t have any gay players by the way, but I’d bloody love one.
What’s your attitude to drinking in football?
They have to stay hydrated. Next.
Do you take a hands-on approach with your players?
As I said earlier, for some of the lads I do and for some I don’t. There was one lad who I won’t name who I got very hands on with. Once the court case eventually cleared I think he knew I did it for the right reasons.
Is it possible for a manager to be too close to his players?
Neil Warnock is a chiropodist. That’s the line right there. Nobody should be fiddling with the players feet so intimately. Nothing wrong with a thorough rub down from the physio if the lad has done well, but I keep my hands in my pockets.
Would you describe yourself as a ‘wheeler dealer’?
(Laughs) I guess so. I’ve torn the transfer market a new one on many occasions I can tell you.
What drives you in football?
The thought of becoming a better person. I wake up, 7:30/7:40 latest and teach these lads all the little treasures this beautiful game has. You don’t get that in other sports. Cricket has tea breaks, Rugby can’t be dealing with 90 minutes and golfers wear silly trousers don’t they? No. Spreading the love of the game is where my vocation lies.
Do you think Notorious B.I.G. was talking about the state of modern football when he said “Mo Money Mo Problems”?
Who is he anyway? I don’t understand him. Did he have a speech impediment?
How would you describe your tactical approach to the game?
It’s traditional with a dash of foreign flair on top. I always set up to win the game. We don’t sit on leads – in fact, I won’t let them sit down on the coach if we lose the lead. They have to stand. They soon learn.
What’s the biggest problem facing English football?
What you should be asking is what our greatest strengths are. We have some really lovely pitches up and down the country and some of the kits these days are a lot more fashionable than the tight 70’s rubbish. I’d go as far to say the Bovril is better than ever too.
Do you believe that a man be bigger than the club? If so, which man?
(Pickles ponders) Can a man be bigger than a club? Yes. Is it healthy is what you should be asking. To that, I say no. The manager might be the driver of the club but you have to have a chairman putting in petrol, and some players giving it a jump start when the battery is flat.
Where do you see Greystone Athletic in 10 years?
Still plugging away. Who knows? If I get afforded the chance to stay here I could see us becoming as synonymous with League 2 as the likes of Rochdale.
Finally, the question on everyone’s lips this summer, do you think England can win the World Cup?
No. I realise that I’m opening myself for criticism and some questionable items to be put through my letter box but if I’m honest, I think it’s Belgium’s time. They had me with their chocolate and waffles but now they even have a football team to go with it. Barring them, I’d like a surprise. The Costa Ricans are a hospitable type of people in my experience so maybe them.
Grass Roots launches on London Live Sunday 20th April at 9pm