You may be familiar with
Shakespeare's line from Macbeth about something or other being 'full of sound
and fury, signifying nothing.'
It's a gag I recall every time I see a football manager in his technical
area, taking time off from haranguing the fourth official to gesticulate wildly
at his players; in what I'm sure must be a doomed attempt to convey tactical
information to them.
The Scottish king's words certainly
came to mind watching Swansea - Chelsea on Sky yesterday.
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was
unmistakeably full of S and F, as he ran through the gamut of emotions, from
teeth-grinding frustration to semi-orgasmic joy.
Actually, no, forget the
There was no gamut.
Conte tends to by-pass the in-between
He doesn't do thoughtful,
troubled, amused, mildly annoyed, or any of those.
You never see him looking like he's wondering if he might
have left the gas on at home, or whether to pick up a takeaway on the drive
What he resembles more is someone emerging
from his vehicle after a road traffic accident to confront the driver who has
just shunted him from behind.
He's a gift to the cameras.
I mean, Jurgen Klopp can be fun, but if
what you're looking for are close-up reaction shots of someone hopping up and
down, seemingly quite literally trying to tear his hair out, Conte is your
I know racial stereotypes are not
comme il faut these days, but
as the BBC is running a season celebrating its hit sitcoms of the 1960s and
'70s, I think I'm allowed to say Antonio is just so gloriously Italian.
Short of wiping the Bolognese sauce off
his meat cleaver and belabouring the opposition manager with it, to a
soundtrack of grand opera, he could not conform more fully to the popular
And he does re-open the question of
how much influence a manager can have on a game once his players have, as
football people like to say, 'crossed the white line.'
I suppose continually letting the
officials know he is unhappy with decisions could arguably tip the balance in
his favour later in the match - it's a technique Sir Alex Ferguson was often
accused of employing - but that weird thing where you thrust both arms out in
front of you, as if holding an invisible ball of wool, move them in a
piston-like motion, and then furiously hold up three or four fingers to your
team, is that communicating anything to the players?
I should think it's more likely to
muddy the waters.
played football at the highest level - or even at the lowest level, to be
brutally honest - but I'm sure that if I were to catch sight of the gaffer on
the touchline waving his arms about, in some visible distress, I should lose
focus, trying to decode the message.
"What the hell's he on about?" I should ask myself.
"Clearly something has got in amongst him, but what does he want me to do
about it?" I might find myself pondering, as the tough-tackling opposition
midfielder robbed me of the ball.
Within the game, as you may have
noticed, my view is not universally supported.
Players, we are often told, respond to those managers
described as "demonstrative," and managers certainly believe their
pitch-side mimes have an effect.
Stoke manager Mark Hughes, for
instance, who outdid Conte in fury, to the extent that he was banished to the
stands, was so insistent on getting his thoughts through to his struggling
charges, that he insisted on being connected electronically to his coaching
team down below.
The pictures on the BBC's Match Of
The Day showed a still fuming Hughes struggling with some primitive device,
which looked disturbingly similar to the toy walkie-talkie set my dad bought me
for Christmas when I was ten years old, so I could play secret agents with Ian
Goldberg across the road.
Once Hughes got the hang of it, I
expect he was passing all sorts of important instructions to his assistants:
"Right, hold up three fingers now.
No, hang on, four, move your arm backwards and forwards.
No, the other arm.
OK, that's right, now go to the other
end of the technical area and point to your eyes with both fingers, look angry;
touch the side of your head."
It's possible the Bard was thinking
of this kind of pantomime when he wrote of a 'poor player that struts and frets
his hour upon the stage,' (or an hour-and-a-half with time added on, in the
case of the gaffers) but then again, Macbeth was only under siege in his
castle, Hughes had just gone 3-0 down at home to Spurs.
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