Managers

Nottingham Forest have lost another manager and are playing their worst football of most fans’ lifetimes. Al Needham looks around frantically for signs of hope

When Joe Kinnear accused the supporters of Nottingham Forest of living in a time warp last month after resigning as manager, it was hard to deny that he had a point. After all, fans in pubs, factories and offices across the city have done little else this season than casting their minds back and trying to remember a Forest team as uniformly lamentable as the current one. The relegation teams of 1993, ’97 or ’99? The Matt Gillies-Dave Mackay-Allan Brown era of the early 70s, when Forest trod water in the old Second Division?

Leading your country or captaining Arsenal is not as easy as managing a lower-division team – at least judging from Tony Adams’ turbulent reign at Wycombe, writes Paul Lewis

There was general surprise when Wycombe Wand­erers appointed Tony Adams as manager back in November 2003. There was a similar reaction when he walked out, 12 months into his first shot at football management. The ending was a messy affair. Adams had spent the previous weekend mulling over the latest defeat – 1-0 at home to Yeovil, a scoreline that had taken his Football League record with Wycombe to nine wins and 20 draws from 46 games. By Tuesday morn­ing he had made up his mind, deciding the players would hear it first before a 9am training session. The news filtered back to the club offices and to the media. Adams switched off his mobile phone so the club were unable to contact him directly to confirm the reports. At around 1pm he released a press statement through his agent citing “personal reasons” as the cause of his departure, which was confirmed by a later meeting with a clearly furious chairman Ivor Beeks.

A flop at Bradford, a controversial figure at Middlesbrough – this former England skipper is seeking managerial redemption at West Brom. Matt Rickard reports

It seems perverse that Bryan Robson should find himself managing again in the Premiership so soon after an ignominious seven months in charge of Bradford City. Wasn’t this the man who couldn’t buy a job after his time at Middlesbrough that ended shortly after a chast­ening call to Terry Venables? And this despite a desperate flurry of CV writing, only matched by the deadening thud of rejection letters.

Adam Powley pays tribute to Tottenham's greatest-ever manager, Bill Nicholson

The death of an 85-year-old man, after a full and productive life punctuated with sporting success and unchallengeable achievement, is not a tragedy. Yet Bill Nicholson’s passing has been much lamented by Tottenham fans – understandably so, for the reaction to Nich­olson’s life speaks volumes not only for the esteem in which he is held, but also for the way it symbolises the end of an era.

While the east midlands mourns a great manager, Brian Clough's native region has lost a great player. Harry Pearson  traces a legend's goalscoring career

It was during the 1986 World Cup. England had got off to a pathetic start and in the ITV studio Mick Channon was lamenting the inability of English players to “get by people”. “The Brazilians do it,” he burbled. “The French do it. The Danes do it…” From off camera came an unmistakable whine: “Even educated fleas do it.” Brian Clough may have won titles and European Cups, but the queasy, humiliated expression that remark put on Channon’s medieval mug will likely live longer in my memory than any of them. To anyone who grew up on Teesside the tone, if not the accent (Clough’s peculiar vocal style was all his own) was unmistakable. Funny undoubtedly, but also scornful, the humorous equivalent of a slap in the face.

The death of Nottingham's "surrogate dad" still hasn't sunk in, writes Al Needham

It goes without saying that Brian Clough was the greatest manager ever, but to the people of Nottingham and Derby it ran much deeper than that. He put us on the map and gave us a reason to be proud of where we came from. Kids from Nottingham were not supposed to see their club win the League, go to Wembley more times than to Skegness, see their club wearing nasty jumpers on Top of the Pops, hold up the European Cup in their Dad's local, or listen under the sheets at 3am to them playing in Tokyo. For anyone in Nottingham between the ages of 30 and 45, Brian Clough was responsible for some of the happiest moments of our childhood. And, despite what anyone else thinks, underneath the media bluster he was a really nice bloke: Nottingham's surrogate dad. 

The arrivals of Jose Mourinho and Rafael Benítez in England demonstrate that now it is managers, rather than players, who are the focus of the Premiership's hype machine, writes Jon Spurling

Bill Shankly’s prophecy – “One day, football man­agers will be as famous and as well paid as their players” – appears to be coming true. Thirty years after the Scot retired from the Liverpool job, the profiles of several Premiership managers, not to mention their wage demands, have never been higher. Players’ wage increases, according to a recent Deloitte & Touche report, are slowing considerably, increasing by an average of only eight per cent last season, as opposed to 25 per cent over each of the last three years. A select band of coaches seem set to close the financial gap on their young stars. Rafael Benítez will earn around £25,000 a week at Liverpool. Jose Mourinho is to be paid four times that amount at Chelsea.

Paul Merson's season at Walsall, which was widely expected to be his last, didn't quite go to plan as he finished the season as player-manager, watching his side plummet into Division Two. Paul Giess looks at the task facing the league's most unlikely manager

After several half-hearted attempts to consolidate in Division One, there was a feeling that Walsall had finally got it right last July when Paul Merson signed up. Sky turned up to cover his arrival – suddenly the Saddlers had a big name on their books for the first time. His plan was to play through a two-year contract while working towards coaching qualifications. The thought of a man who struggled to manage his own daily routine taking charge of someone’s club seemed absurd at that time. 

Bill Shankly was not just a football manager: he was a communicator. Barney Ronay listened to his words come to life and was reminded of a thousand pale imitations

In 1997 a plaque was unveiled in Glenbuck commemorating the 55 professional footballers the Scottish mining village produced during the last century. Among them was Bill Shankly accompanied, even here, by what have become his defining epithets: “the legend, the genius, the man”. This seems to be more than just a localised view. “I watched his genius un­fold,” wrote Tom Finney in 1993. “A great man, a great manager and a great psychologist,” enthused Kevin Keegan. No mention of Shankly, it seems, is complete with­out a magisterial turn of phrase. The legend, the greatest, the granditudelissimus – when it comes to Shankly we all turn into Don King.

Reading fan Roger Titford believes that, far from going on to greater things, by leaving for West Ham Alan Pardew has turned his back on a chance to really make his name

“West Ham swoop for Reading’s Alan Pardew.” It seemed a clear enough story for the media: swoop, birds of prey, tasty morsels seized, law of the jungle and all that. Except, this time, the prey fought back and, for a few days, a “mouse bites eagle” story looked possible.

Sign up to the WSC Weekly Howl - a small portion of despair and enlightenment delivered to your inbox every Friday