Book : Managing football teams is a most unpredictable job

Alan Aherne

Published 22/09/2015 | 00:00

Living on the Volcano
Living on the Volcano

From 2009 up to the end of last season, The Football League Show presented by Manish Bhasin shone a light on the lower regions of the game in England.

It was regular viewing for many fans every Saturday night on the BBC directly after Match Of The Day, but the highlights have moved to Channel 5 for 2015-'16.

It was thanks to this programme that I became familiar with the weekly soundbytes from managers across all divisions from the Championship downwards.

It may have been a mere ten-second, one-line contribution, but it became as regular as night following day.

And now, thanks to the efforts of Michael Calvin, a more in-depth profile of many of these beleagured bosses has been presented in 'Living On The Volcano - The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager'.

Calvin has form in terms of compiling a readable book on soccer as he penned 'The Nowhere Men' on the topic of the scouts behind the scenes which won The Times British Sports Book of the Year for 2014.

Currently chief sports writer with the Independent on Sunday, he has come up with another gem in this engrossing publication.

There is an impressive depth to the book as Calvin doesn't confine himself to just a few managers.

Instead a wide range are covered and, while Premier League gaffers such as Mark Hughes and Alan Pardew are among those featured, for the most part he concentrates on telling the life stories of bosses further down the food chain.

He certainly succeeds in gripping the attention of readers from the start as he looks at the turbulent life of Martin Ling whose stressful work as a manager sent him on a downward spiral which ultimately led to severe depression and suicidal tendencies.

Happily, there is a positive end as we return to Ling and discover that he is well on the road to recovery and is strong enough to deliver a talk to his fellow managers on his experiences at a seminar.

In between the reader learns a great deal about life in the lower echelons of the leagues in England, with lots of confirmation along the way that it's not always as glamorous as it may appear from the outside looking in.

It's a ruthless, unforgiving world where absolutely everything revolves around results. The personal whims of a Chairman often provide the difference between a manager keeping his job and losing it, and plenty of hard luck stories which evoke sympathy are outlined along the way.

In general terms though, the subjects of the book come across as a very resilient group who accept as a matter of course that being sacked is an unfortunate part of the job.

A lot of camaraderie is evident in the support received from bosses when one of their own loses his job. In that regard, Brendan Rodgers emerges as a particularly popular and considerate member of the managerial community, always going out of his way to help a colleague in distress.

He is also looked upon as something of a poster boy for lower league managers given that he came from a similar background.

This is a well-written, interesting book. It takes guts to be a manager, and life in the role is portrayed in a very effective manner by a talented writer.

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