Sunday 18 January ~
Post-match interviews with managers whose teams have just lost often make uncomfortable viewing. Already weary and hoarse from yelling ineffectually for an hour and half, they are faced with a barrage of questions that serve to remind them of precisely how much pressure they are under. This is especially the case with the seemingly supportive but actually aggressive enquiry that contains its own answer, as perfected by Sky's producer and touchline inquisitor Geoff Shreeve.
As managerial shoulders slump slightly in front of the sponsors hoarding, Shreeve will seek to establish just how much of a blow it was to concede that second goal at a time when the team seemed to be getting back into the game. With their eyes glazing, the interviewee will then be given the chance to assert that, yes, they will indeed pick themselves up and move on, before they are released in pursuit of a stiff drink.
In the face of such flummery, some appear to be cope better than others. Joe Kinnear will always cite a questionable refereeing decision as the turning point in his defeat and doesn't appear to entertain self doubt. Whereas the other Premier League manager whose side lost 3-0 yesterday, Gareth Southgate, often seems unable to disguise that he is at a loss to account for what has happened.
This afternoon's match at White Hart Lane brings together two managers who represent opposite extremes in how they cope with potentially awkward questions. Harry Redknapp will lean confidentially towards his interlocutor, and take care to use his name a few times, while lobbing back platitudes that convey his absolute confidence that everything will turn out fine in the end. Tony Adams, by contrast, is one of the most unsettling people ever to have a microphone thrust in his face. If his team have performed well, he will be a picture of gloom, muttering about things that need to be put right; if they've lost, he will often be disconcertingly perky, seemingly on the verge of pointing out that no-one has died so why the fuss.
You can play word bingo with any newspaper profile of Tony Adams, in which he will nearly always be described as "interesting" and "unorthodox". Adams himself will often refer to his own outlook as "deep" or "heavy". But Adams is not in fact especially thoughtful - he just talks a lot. Like many people who have been through therapy he has been encouraged to unburden himself. Which in practice means that no thought goes unexpressed, even, or especially, when it's often only half-developed. Adams seems to be essentially decent and well-intentioned, notably in relation to offers of help for others sportsmen who have had addiction problems. But he also seems fundamentally unsuited to being a football manager, to an extent that is often painful to see. Nonetheless, anyone tempted to switch over when the Adams interview comes up will also want to check on how blithely assured Harry Redknapp can manage to look should his team fail to get the victory that would lift them to mid-table.