ASK ALMOST any manager of a professional sports team about their life and they will invariably shrug their shoulders and say “what life?” Their team is their life, the day-to-day minutiae of every individual within it occupies every waking moment and a lot of the sleeping ones too. They go round and round endlessly in their minds about the tactics for the next match. The permutations. The repercussions of this and the consequences of that. Work-life balance? Don’t make me laugh, they would say.
If you’re the manager of Newcastle United, you also have one of the most passionate sporting followings in the world to contend with, a ravenous national and local media, and in a party city, the endless worry that your star players are out in some nightclub at 2am. You age in the job, like American presidents do, and you go ever so slightly mad with every passing day because of the intensity of your chosen occupation.
All of which is not to condone what Alan Pardew did at the weekend, because you will doubtless say that with that kind of position comes immense responsibility, but beware sanctimonious preachers with typewriters, microphones or on the end of a telephone line. His apparent head-butt on Hull City player David Meyler has made him a pariah, with phone-in bullies and pundits galore calling for touchline bans and even exclusions from football grounds.
Pardew was wrong, and he’s admitted that, and he’s been fined by his club, albeit a derisory sum. In the end, he may lose his job over this latest misdemeanour, but every time his team take the field he could suffer that fate. No wonder he cares, albeit perhaps too much. That’s why you can never say to the likes of Pardew that it’s only a game, because they would all counter that by saying “it’s my life”. And you would never say “it’s only a life”. If we learn one thing from Saturday, then perhaps it’s how remarkably in control most managers remain in the most stressful of situations, and how very unsurprising it is that occasionally one of them snaps.