Frankly, we don’t know how football managers keep it together. All Diarists are, of course, exceptionally well-balanced and self-controlled people, yet we suspect that the clanking idiocy of some of the Premier League’s more influential buffoons might push us beyond our limits.
And we’re not the ones who’ll be getting sacked if they keep making themselves look silly. (No, we’re going to get sacked when nobody does anything silly all weekend, and we have to resort to writing about pork meat again.)
So if, for example, Jurgen Klopp had reacted to Loris Karius’ basically handing Bournemouth a fourth winning goal by barrelling into the dressing room and attempting to pull his keeper’s face off by the ears, shouting “I know you’re in there, Simon! I know you’re in there!”? If it had taken the combined forces of James Milner and Dejan Lovren to pull him away? If Klopp had only finally calmed down when he caught sight of Simon Mignolet sat on the other side of the room, quietly doing a sudoku? You couldn’t have blamed him.
Nor could you have blamed Jose Mourinho for responding to Marouane Fellaini’s decisive, clown-shoed intervention – in a game that Manchester United were set to win – by inviting the Belgian into his office, sitting him down, and looking at him. And looking at him. And looking at him. And continuing to look at him as minutes turned into hours, as the rest of Manchester United’s squad went home, and as the sun set. Just looking. Calmly, even blankly. Just gazing into Fellaini’s eyes. They’d still be in there now. At least, Fellaini wouldn’t have come out.
But the real award for managerial temperance must go to Pep Guardiola. After watching Kevin De Bruyne miss an open goal, after watching Claudio Bravo dissolve in every one-on-one situation, after watching Sergio Aguero earn himself a winter break by attempting to divide David Luiz at the knee, after watching Fernandinho join him by giving Cesc Fabregas a little push, and another little push, and another one, and – oops! An advertising hoarding! Oh, Cesc! You’ve fallen over, you big silly.
After all that, you’d forgive him for being a little peeved. A lot peeved. You’d let him off if he made sarcastic air quotes all through the standard-issue “apology”, offered out the entire press room, then charged into the mixed zone with his skinny tie wrapped around his forehead and delivered the following statement to a confused mascot:
“Is that good enough? Do I get it now? English football! English football! You like mindless violence, don’t you? Don’t you? You like a good scrap? You like to laugh at the overgrown babies pushing each in the face and throwing themselves on the floor? There you go. There you go. Do I get it now? English football! Push him again Fernandinho! Push him again! Do I get it? Come on!”
Before tucking his inflatable banana under his arm, shaking hands with a fire extinguisher, and vanishing into the Manchester gloaming for 72 hours of restorative paint stripper.
And those are just the headline cases. We’re sure Claude Puel would dearly love to have spent a good half hour poking Fraser Forster with a large stick and saying “Why did you tackle yourself? Why did you tackle yourself?” And obviously it’s a bit cheap to point that Bob Bradley looks like a man capable of extremely creative vengeance upon his shambles of a back four, but hey, that’s not going to put us off.
Perhaps this is the true measure of a football manager: the ability not to give in to the baser urges that must be bubbling away underneath. To take a deep breath, and another, and then go back into work and help Karius with his handling, rather than just muttering “more like Dropius” behind him for the next couple of months. To tweak formations and devise solutions, rather than place Aguero and Fernandinho in a wheelie bin, sit on top, and pretend to be unable to hear them.
Or maybe it’s just that football managers have access to better kinds of vengeance than the rest of us. Sure, a bit of immediate retribution might appeal, but revenge, like gazpacho soup and takeaway pizza, is a dish best served in a bowl. Sorry, cold. We’re sure that Mourinho would love to spend today hiding behind doors, then sticking out a foot and laughing as Fellaini goes clattering down some stairs. But instead he’s going to keep his temper, get on with his job, and then flog him to West Ham in January. You have to shiver at the brutality.