The wit and wisdom of Scotland boss
“Gordon, can I have a quick word?” “Velocity.”
JUST one of Gordon Strachan’s many quick-witted, deadpan responses over the years. A sarcastic, self-aware, often obtuse voice who makes it his business to challenge lazy cliché, banal questions and ‘safe’ responses, Strachan should be celebrated for his stance.
Talking about football has always been an important part of the game. Everyone does it, and everyone gets irritated watching others do it.
As a player, manager and pundit, Strachan has always been well ahead of his peers when it comes to the things that really matter; not the actual football, but the talking about it.
As @FootballClichés on Twitter has docu- mented, the way we talk about football is often ridiculous.
A whole lexicon has evolved to articulate all the different aspects of the sport.We, the customer, viewer and commenter, being the cynical people we are, tend to focus on the negatives: the circular-talking Brendan Rogers, the nasal, uninspiring commentary of Michael Owen, the depressing lack of enthusiasm of Mark Lawrenson, all that Garth Crooks says, and the all-too-familiar football cliché bingo post-match interview typified by the Steven Gerrards of this world.
Every weekend, once the actual viewing is out of the way, the complaints start rolling in on social media, in the pub and on the sofa.
Instead, we should focus on the good. Gary Neville is often rightly singled out for his straight-shooting tactical analysis and there are several amiable faces that regularly appear on our screens. But even so, the scales of likeable football personalities is dishearteningly lop-sided, weighed down by the uninteresting, the dour and the irritating.
Strachan stands out. He straddles genre; equally capable of serious, well-observed tactical analysis, humour and a lighter touch that much football broadcasting lacks.
He rose to prominence before the era of media training, immediately endearing himself to the public by avoiding well-trodden platitudes, in favour of frank opinion and, where necessary, caustic sarcasm and dry wit.
He has managed Coventry, Southampton, Celtic and Middlesbrough with reasonable success and is currently orchestrating an upturn in fortunes with the Scottish national team. He has also held various punditry roles,
appearing on BBC’s Match of the Day and more recently on ITV’s Champions League highlights show and at the 2014 World Cup.
Of course, there are plenty of other characters in the wide, but not so diverse world of football. Ian Holloway’s west-country twang, unique style of management and off-piste rants have no doubt provided much joy over the years.
As have Jimmy Bullard’s playful antics, now open to a wider audience after I’m a Celebrity high-jinks, and Phil Brown’s ongoing David Brent impersonation. But with these people there is clearly a sense of laughing at them, and not with them.
Strachan’s appeal goes beyond this. His ‘Best Of ’YouTube reel is packed with as many laughs as the before-mentioned people. It contains a mixture of dry humour, awkward media interviews and snappy punchlines, but Strachan is also keen to highlight the bigger picture. Football is not everything; after all, he’s got a yoghurt to finish today before its expiry date. A sense of humour is a rare and very welcome attribute in football and for Strachan it came to the fore as a manager.
Many managers are bigger stories than their team, but Strachan’s resistance of dull press conferences and interviews were typically understated, not driven by ego, like many current bosses. His mantra was simple: “If you’re going to ask me stupid questions, I’m going to give you stupid answers.”
Perhaps surprisingly for a man who fought against the media in his time as an English club manager, he has made an excellent TV pundit.
His distinctive Edinburgh tones offer a gen uine insight into the sport, make light of the amusing and provide an old-school standpoint on the modern game.
Whilst Scotland manager, he has continued to appear on TV, offering a unique and refreshing insight into management.
The recent news of Andy Townsend’s ITV contract not being renewed was understandably met with widespread glee on social media. For many he represents the apex of bland football coverage.
Media outlets could do worse than look to Strachan as an example. The human element is important. Viewers warm to personality and humour.
Strachan is rightly gaining plaudits for his day job with Scotland. It may be less important, but he also deserves a pat on the back for fighting the good fight in the media.
Are you sure about that question? Gordon action Strachan in typical Press conference