So Liverpool? What’s going on there then? Some might say it’s the squad, simply not good enough, made up of too much driftwood and not enough oak. That would be Rafa Benitez’s fault of course, squandering their sheckles on the titanesque talents of Robbie Keane and Alberto Aquilani. Some might say it’s the crushing morale of the last six months, so low they’ll have to fight to claw it back to sea level. That would be Hodgson’s fault, chipping away at their once proud reputation like an Owl …chipping away at something. Possibly a tree, or small animal of some sort stuck in a tree. Some may even claim it’s the crushing morale of the last two years, since their ownership issue’s muddied the waters, causing Fernando Torres considerable loss of sleep and form fretting hopelessly over the Financial Times and poisoning the dressing room with talk of qualified audit options and short term facility extensions. Like footballers do. In which case it’s Gillett and Hicks’ fault, with their dastardly cowboy capitalist ways. But I’ve decided it’s none of these. No. It’s the coat.
You know the one, that over-sized quilted puffer jacket thing they’ve all been wearing. Like a giant inflatable life raft fashioned into the shape of a person, or the kind of thing they give to Bruce Willis at the end of Die Hard films when they realise he’s been running around in a vest for half the day (usually when he’s sitting in an ambulance, just before realising there’s 15 minutes left of the film and he knows where the bad guys are hiding.) Hodgson spent the last four months huddling himself inside of one, looking ridiculous and not in the slightest bit like Bruce Willis. More like an injured Owl caught in the snow and wrapped up by someone from the RSPCA. It completely destroyed his dignity. He used to look dapper at Fulham, all suits and ties and candy floss hair. The second he put on that coat and slumped in the dug out the image war was lost. He looked defeated.
Benitez spent much of his last term in charge snuggled into one too (or at least that’s how I’m choosing to remember it.) around the same time he started taking Gerrard and Torres off during 1-1s at mid-table clubs. And now King Kenny’s in on the act. Rather than striding in regally with a sharp suit and an air of superiority, he’s shuffled his way into the dugouts at Old Trafford and Bloomfield Road looking like an old sickly Labrador in a duvet.
No no no, Malcolm Allison had it right, managers should look the part. They should look like the professional detached leaders of men they are. Not like PE teachers. Let the coaches don the sportswear and run around looking ever so slightly desperate to be brought on – Stuart Pearce I’m looking in your direction. Even if you’re going to wear a suit and tie underneath a warm coat, at least wear something that doesn’t look like it’s just been bought from the club shop.
The new breed are certainly down with this ethos, with de facto leader Jose Mourinho leading dashingly from the front. During his time at Chelsea his fashionable knee length overcoat became just as imposing a symbol of fortress Stamford Bridge as John Terry and uninspired chanting. Across the way from Kenny the other night, Ian ‘Olly’ Holloway looked both intimidating and stylish in a sort of Gestapo/Stasi meets Blackpool pleasure beach leather jacket and glove combo. Like he was ready at any time to torture vital information out of Luke Varney but not before he’d had some rock and a go on the swings.
Roberto Mancini’s one scarf fits all approach has won plaudits from Canal Street to Milan and West Brom’s early season form was surely in part down to the undoubted air of gravitas Roberto Di Matteo’s catwalk style leant to the Hawthorns. Even jowly Mafioso Carlo Ancelotti knows how to flex his threads, donning in recent weeks what looks suspiciously like his wife’s Prada skiing jacket.
Perhaps Dalglish has been out of the game too long, maybe he’s just not down with what the kids are wearing these days. If so perhaps he should look to his fellow semi-incomprehensible Glaswegian Sir Alex Ferguson, who has managed to get a respectable mileage out of what looks ostensibly like a grandad coat he bought from Matalan in 1987. Despite its rather crusty appearance and the knowledge there’s almost certainly a morph sized amount of gum stuck to the inside pockets, there’s a strange otherworldly air of menace about it befitting of the man. It looks like something someone in Taggart would wear. An old school, gruff, hard drinking, hard smoking, grizzled detective who hates paper work and roughs up his witnesses but ‘By Jimmy’ he gets results!
The very name Dalglish should be enough to strike awe, respect and determination into any player, but these are 21st century Premiership footballers remember? They wouldn’t know respect from a dishwasher tablet. They need visual clues, and big lettering. No tactics, no team talks, what Kenny really needs to get Liverpool going again is a better coat. And maybe a scarf. A red one. And some gloves too. Trust me, I’m not a doctor, but I’d like to be.
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