Simon Kimber on managers who were like yer Dad…

The Manager. Not just any manager – the manager of my football team. The only one that matters to me so the man in charge took his place high up the pecking order of importance in my life such as it was in my formative years. Whatever he said, I wanted to know. I would read his proclamations and listen to his interviews as if they were teachings from a prophet. After all, this man was shaping the fortunes of my football team and, by association, my young life.
I can’t imagine for one minute that Jimmy Bloomfield was aware of his role as father-figure, or anyone that succeeded him for that matter.
He probably didn’t feel the need to call me and counsel me or offer comfort when Peter Shilton was sold to Stoke City. He failed me again when the phone didn’t ring after the FA Cup semi-final defeat to Liverpool. But parents can do that to you occasionally.
This notion of manager as father-figure is a big deal when you are a kid. You form your own distant relationship with the man and hold them in awe on some level, but Bloomfield and those who followed were all very different parents. Jimmy was the kindly, approachable fellow. You imagine that confessing that you had put your football through a greenhouse window would be met with a furrowed brow and pursed lips but a calm sense of perspective nonetheless. We would talk it through and decide how to avoid it happening again. That was Jimmy. But what about Frank McLintock? He wasn’t here long enough to form any relationship and there was certainly no admiration or authority about him. A sort of transient stepfather that was gone as soon as he had blown the family savings and shagged the au-pair!
But what of Jock Wallace? Speak when you are spoken to and never answer back. That might be the key to a good father-son relationship. And how to tell him about that broken glass in the greenhouse? Hide under the bed all day and don’t ever tell him might be the best way. So what sort of father was Gordon Milne? You wouldn’t know he was there half the time; calm, quiet and measured. In the background quietly reading his paper and complaining if your music was too loud. But then you find out one day that, whilst you weren’t looking, he swapped Jimmy Melrose for Tom English! Didn’t speak to him for weeks. How could he?
The key to all of these relationships was a consistent presence.
Longevity. Time to get to know them. Trust them, question them occasionally but mostly trust them. They were a safe pair of hands and they took care of the thing that mattered most to me: Leicester City. Since then, with few exceptions, managers arrive on a conveyor belt and depart soon after like the prizes on The Generation Game and some are about as much worth as the fondue set and the cuddly toy.
Transient mercenaries who are gone before they have had time to weave themselves in to the fabric of the club and convince us that they can be trusted.

About thefoxfanzine

Editor of The FOX Fanzine - covering Leicester City for 23 years... it seems longer.
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