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IAN LADYMAN: Grudge and poison have always been directed at managers … it just comes in a different form.

IAN LADYMAN: Grudge and poison have always been aimed at managers … now it just comes in a different form


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The first manager I worked with, for the Nottingham Evening Post in 1996, was Colin Murphy from Notts County.

He was eccentric, unpredictable and a bit intimidating, but after being fired he wrote me a kind letter wishing me well. Another essentially decent guy, briefly deformed by steering pressure.

Since then, I have spent 25 years watching many more people go through the game. Some thrive, others simply survive. Some face the situation, many more unfortunately do not.

Soccer management is a brutal and debilitating craft that leaves little room for the softer things in life.

Which brings me to Steve Bruce and Mikel Arteta.

Bruce has finally walked the board at Newcastle United and those who know him will be glad he’s finished. The job had been hurting him for months.

Many managers expressed empathy, but Arteta, and indeed David Moyes, went further. Arteta, the Arsenal manager, said young people would be deterred from joining the profession by the accompanying criticism and abuse. Moyes said, “People don’t understand the implications of hearing people talk about us every day.”

It is important to listen to these testimonials. They are from the people who actually live this particular life. But is life much more unpleasant now than ever? I am not that sure.

Social media is said to have given every idiot a voice. There’s something to that, but places like Twitter and Facebook are a threat to all of us, regardless of what we decide to do or be in life.

As for the voices, they have always been there. In the bleachers that used to be much closer to the pitch, in the local Saturday soccer papers that used to flood the streets full time, and through other media outlets.

As for phone calls, well, here’s something that will make us feel old. BBC Radio 5 Live’s 606 program turns 30 this winter, while talkSPORT turns 20 now. Fantasy Football League, the brilliant but occasionally cruel comedy vehicle driven by Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, launched on the BBC in 1994.

Meanwhile, soccer fanzines, which often operate outside the usual restrictions of defamation laws, predate all of the above.

So the notion that the only popular soccer coaches were being criticized before the day Mark Zuckerberg went small in shorts were guys in flat caps standing behind goal is palpably false. The spite, the poison and the clear injustice of all this have always been there.

Believe it or not, fans even used to write letters to the man in charge of their team. Do you remember that concept? The bravest of the profession used to read them all. Some would even respond.

Others? Well, they would ask their secretary to open them and read them. The softest ones would get to the manager’s desk, the rest just to the trash can.

The same principles serve us now. As Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp said, the best way to deal with hate on social media is not to look at it. It is an evil that is criminally under surveillance. Anyone who moves to commit to him must understand the risks.

Surely Bruce has suffered and it has been difficult to see. My colleague Craig Hope has long insisted that he was not good enough for the Newcastle job.

Bruce believes that Craig was unfair and his criticisms too enthusiastic.

Ultimately, that is an argument between two adults.

However, in the end, what makes most of the men who start to suffer from the pressures of work are the results. This is always the trigger.

The evil forces within soccer may now be greater. The warped financial structure of our game makes certain jobs almost impossible. Players have more power, owners less patience.

But the noise from outside? Hasn’t it always been there, just in a different way?

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