The key to great comedy is timing – something Mark Hughes sweems to have mastered this week. The same goes for his agent, the lovable, cuddly Kia Joorabchian.
As misguided interviews go, this was up there with the best. On the day before the Manchester derby (and on the day itself), a couple of journalists released their exclusive interview with Mark Hughes, which discussed his time at Manchester City and Fulham. In it, he came across as an embittered, jealous loser, like the jilted lover that sits at home swigging vodka and listening to Alanis Morissette (though Sam Wallace over at the Independent was keen to state at the end of his article that Hughes was not bitter. No siree).
On pre-derby day, it was all about City.
“We went through a lot of pain,” Hughes said. “Other people have had the gain.”
Few City fans thought Hughes was fit to lead the team to the top. Many thought he should probably have been given until the end of the season, and City were criticised for the manner of his dismissal, searching for a replacement whilst he was still employed. Now without any bias whatsoever, I can honestly say that City did the right thing. You cannot dismiss a football manager without having a replacement lined up mid-season – it makes no sense whatsoever. It might seem cruel to the manager at the helm, but that’s the life of a manager – he got a £3m pay-off to console himself with. What’s more, it was two years ago – perhaps time to get over it? I’m not sure what pain he went through for other people’s game, apart from not winning many games prior to his dismissal. Whatever, owners who have pumped a billion into a football club are probably entitled to install their own man. And he seems to be doing ok.
But the foolishness of his interview is less about whether he deserved the sack, but how he sees fit to comment on a manager far more successful than he will ever be, and all whilst out of employment, a blatant PR exercise to remind owners of his availability.
“I don’t know the guy personally,” said Hughes of Mancini, “but looking at him from the outside, he comes across as autocratic. It’s either his way or the highway. I’m not sure he indulges players, tries to get to know or understand them. I’m not sure he’s that type of manager.”
A good rule generally when deciding whether to comment on someone you don’t know, is to stay quiet.
“Managing like that in the modern age with modern footballers is more difficult. To be an absolute autocrat and not be flexible in terms of how it’s going to be done and not understand your decisions can impact on players is difficult, because they do. If you manage like that, there are going to be clashes and the likelihood of having clashes with players is, on the law of averages, going to be more prevalent than managers who try to get the best out of players doing it the other way.”
How bizarre to pass comment on how Mancini manages – Hughes must have the brain cells to realise how bitter it makes him look. If only Mancini could have managed more like Hughes and eclipsed his illustrious managerial record. Or perhaps become a bit more laid-back like that rather successful guy down the road – oh, hang on…
So what if there are clashes and fall-outs? Hughes seems to think players should be pampered – well I’m sorry, but that’s drivel .They are paid obscene amounts of money (those at the top) and should do as the manager says. And tough luck if they don’t like it. And there will always be fall-outs with managers and players – no style of management can avoid this.
“Carlos (Tevez) is strong-willed, certainly,” he said. “Yes, he wants to play and for a guy who has come through life the hard way he still has a genuine desire to want to play every week. I never saw him as volatile. I can’t think of one incident where there were flashpoints, but I played a long time and I can handle things like that. You learn how to take the sting out of it. It would never have happened under my watch.”
Yep, suddenly Hughes is the master man-manager. Funny how he doesn’t mention failing to handle Robinho, the biggest name at the club for much of the time, or his total failure to work with Elano, once making him wait outside his office for an hour like a naughty schoolboy. The reason he had little problem with Tevez was that it was the player’s first season at City – and he tends to behave in his debut season.
Just how would he have avoided flashpoints? Well as mentioned earlier, by indulging the player. Well City tried that, and Tevez took advantage even more. It’s a dangerous game to bow down to the whims of any player, and it tends not to go down too well with other players. Fancy that.
The best though was left to last.
“Whether or not the group as a whole work as diligently and with the same mantra Manchester United have, I’d maybe suggest not. Every Manchester United player understands what United is about. The players understand it is a privilege to play for them. They show the club that deference. I’m not sure the group at City understand that yet.”
City fans are used to this oft-repeated rubbish that United players all play for the shirt, would play for free if necessary, and that City are just a bunch of over-paid mercenaries after the money at a club ridden with ill-discipline, and poor team morale. Well apart from the fact that if they were just playing for money it would be fine (it is their job after all), the evidence seems to suggest otherwise does it not? And if you are going to come out with such steaming piles of dog-poo, best not to do it the day before City beat United 6-1 at Old Trafford – it just makes you look even more stupid, and even more bitter.
By Sunday he had enraged Mohammed Al Fayed, and when the man that erects a statue of Michael Jackson outside his ground calls you strange, then you know you’re in trouble.
“What a strange man Mark Hughes is,” he said. “Sacked by Manchester City, he was becoming a forgotten man when I rescued him to become manager of Fulham Football Club.”
“Even when results were bad, I did not put pressure on him. I gave him every support – financial, moral and personal. He fully negotiated a two-year extension to his contract. On the day he was due to sign, he walked out without the courtesy of a proper explanation. And now he insults the club, saying it lacks ambition, and the players who delivered an eighth position finish last season and a place in the Europa League.”
In my opinion, he is an average manager who would be out of his depth at a top job. He surrounded himself at City with his friends (The Welsh maffia, or as many called them – The Taffia”), bought Jo and Santa Cruz for £35m, and lacked the imagination to take the club to a higher level. Rather than taking agent-led snide digs at a man he doesn’t know, a man with a managerial record far to superior to his, perhaps he should concentrate on working out why he is out of work, and try to work on his own deficiencies. And when even journalists on Twitter are saying you sound bitter and twisted, then perhaps the problems lie closer to home.