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The Darke Side: Madcap Managers

Ian Darke recalls some bizarre comments from football bosses

27 May 2020

Jose Mourinho

Heard the one about the young Northern Ireland debutant who asked the manager about win bonuses?

“Well, it’s like this, son,” said his boss. “We never win, so there are no bonuses!”

The manager in question was the great ex-Spurs captain Danny Blanchflower, whose cutting intelligence and logic was legendary.

“Let’s face it,” he told a reporter asking about an offside call, “any player who isn’t interfering with play shouldn’t be on the pitch.” What would football be without a bit of humour like this?

Derby once had to take a ride on the Woolwich Ferry to a game at Charlton because the Blackwall Tunnel in London was blocked by an accident.

Paul Jewell’s team turned up late and lost 4-1, with the manager brilliantly explaining that his players were ‘seasick’.

Dave Bassett’s Wimbledon side were notorious for their pretty crude direct style. But after a home win, a journalist suggested that they had actually played some attractive one-touch football.

“Blimey, did we? I will need to have a word with them about that,” came the reply.

I covered a Women’s World Cup game after which the North Korean manager explained a 4-0 defeat by saying the team bus ‘had been struck by lightning’.

That’s what you call a better class of excuse. Except it had not rained for six weeks.

"I covered a Women’s World Cup game after which the North Korean manager explained a 4-0 defeat by saying the team bus ‘had been struck by lightning’."

Ian Darke

Then there was Nigel Adkins, then manager of Scunthorpe, telling me that his side were going to surprise their opponents in a play-off final at Wembley.

“You watch,” he said. “It will be like that film ‘Tora! Tora! Tora!’ about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor

They won’t know what’s hit them.” Then he paused and added: “Hang on, better not say that. Japan bloody lost in the end, didn’t they?”

Jose Mourinho, upset that Sky Sports had revealed he was smuggled into Stamford Bridge in a kit basket while suspended, confronted Rob Hawthorne at the next game.

Calling him into his office and pulling a sheet over the bewildered commentator, Mourinho asked: “Is this how I did it?” These are stories you can dine out on for a few years afterwards.

At Anfield, I asked then West Ham boss Slaven Bilic who would take penalties with Mark Noble suspended.

“Jeez. I forgot myself,” he said. “Thanks. I’d better go back in the dressing room and tell them it’s Dimitri Payet.” We both had a good chuckle.

It’s just as well because in this game, you often have to laugh to stop yourself crying.

This column first appeared in this season's Pompey v Peterborough matchday magazine.

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