x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

All hail Roy Hodgson, the headbanger

Type the words 'Roy Hodgson headbanger' into YouTube and you will find footage of the West Bromwich Albion manager deliberately thumping his head against some pitch-side advertising hoardings.

Roy Hodgson banging his head off some stadium advertising reflects an 'everyman' frustration.
Roy Hodgson banging his head off some stadium advertising reflects an 'everyman' frustration.

If you have a spare minute, type the words "Roy Hodgson headbanger" into YouTube.

You will find footage of the West Bromwich Albion head coach deliberately and repeatedly thumping his head against some pitch-side advertising hoardings.

Some clips last for the few seconds it took Hodgson to vent his frustration when the Baggies conceded a late winner to Everton on New Year's Day.

Others last longer, with the footage looped and set to music.

One such montage is set to Ace of Spades by Motorhead, a pleasing choice not least because heavy metal music is native to West Bromwich and its English Black Country environ.

Had Hodgson still been at Liverpool, the equivalent soundtrack would have hailed from the Merseybeat era; at genteel Fulham, a string quartet. Have you ever seen anyone headbanging to Gerry and the Pacemakers or Vivaldi?

Exactly.

Alas, Hodgson is less amused by the attention.

"I'm not pleased about it," he said. "If it was up to me, I would never have TV cameras on the coaches, I'd only have them on the players, because I don't think people should come to matches to watch the coaches."

That is an understandable sentiment from one of the game's undisputed gentlemen. It is also entirely wrong.

Firstly, Hodgson might like to cast his mind back to the match in question, which was a listless affair even by the typically tepid standard of festive football.

With so little action on the pitch, we might forgive the cameraman for pointing his lens towards something - anything - to keep the viewer from nodding off: pretty spectators, interesting cloud formations, a common pigeon foraging for pie crumbs, brickwork in possible need of re-pointing.

A normally mild-mannered manager in the throes of his own Falling Down moment? You can be sure of that.

Secondly, Hodgson has entirely misunderstood the relationship many people have with sport.

Yes, there are purists who care about nothing more than the athletic spectacle. Good luck to them.

Many more, in my opinion, enjoy sport for its human drama. Football is a never-ending fable, its characters endlessly debated and dissected by adults who believe themselves to have grown out of fairy stories.

Managers are central to this fable because they are the most relatable characters.

The players are like ancient Greek Gods: beautiful, powerful, tempestuous. It is the managers who are mere mortals: valiant but flawed souls tossed about on the whim of the Gods, sometimes emerging victorious, other times humiliated.

Managers usually appear tired, stressed, out of shape, resigned to each new day bringing another heap of problems.

In other words, they are just like you and I, but in a slightly more glamorous industry.

So, of course we want to see their faces when that late winner is conceded, the new signing carried off on a stretcher, the clear penalty denied. Of course their meltdowns will go viral and live long in the memory - Hodgson's headbanging pales next to Kevin Keegan's finger-jabbing "I will love it" rant, or the Rafa Benitez "Fact" lecture.

But so, too, will we remember their humanity in victory, from Bob Stokoe's delirious pitch-invasion at Sunderland's 1973 FA Cup victory to Sir Alex Ferguson's stunned reaction to winning the European Cup in 1999.

Football must never take its eye of that careworn man at pitch side, no matter how much he wants it to, for therein lies it soul.

 

JEWELL'S COMMENT NOT A GEM, BUT DOESN'T CROSS THE LINE

What a shame the English Football Association did not charge Paul Jewell over his supposedly sexist comments regarding an assistant referee.

The Ipswich Town manager was furious at Amy Fearn’s failure to back a late penalty appeal against Birmingham City last week. Post-match, when one journalist suggested “everyone to a man thought that was a penalty”, Jewell said: “But not to a woman.” He also made reference to “the lineswoman, or whatever they are called”.

As sexism goes, it hardly matches Andy Gray and Richard Keys, the Sky Sports pundits dismissed for disparaging a female assistant referee before the game had even started.

Nor does it match the Fifa president Sepp Blatter’s master plan to increase interest in women’s football: shorter shorts.

In fact, I sympathise with Jewell’s passionate defence that it was not sexist at all. Strictly speaking, he did not say Miss Fearn made a mistake because she was female.

Yes, in these sensitive times he was naive to make reference to her gender at all, particularly when criticising her work. But such naivety alone would be a harsh basis for an FA charge.

As for the “lineswoman or whatever they are called” comment, that is more hostile to Fifa, for replacing the traditional term of “linesman” with the cumbersome “assistant referee”, than toward women.

So, why would I want him charged? Frankly, in the hope of seeing another Luis Suarez-style campaign for justice.

Jewell began his career at Liverpool, so I am sure he could have asked Kenny Dalglish for the name of his T-shirt printers.

Plus, I would have enjoyed reading “club sources” telling the media: “Where Paul come from, it is quite normal to use the word ‘woman’. It is part of his culture.”

Finally, after a grudging apology, we could have waited to blame Jewell when the first Ipswich fan accused a player of acting like “a big girl”. (Note: this would happen a lot sooner if they played in the Premier League.)

 

sports@thenational.ae

 

@ For more FOOTBALL COLUMNS, visit thenational.ae/topics