The Technical Area: A Modern Day Theatre for Managers to Strut Their Stuff

by Rob Shepherd.

SOCCER Newcastle 135156 Football Newcastle United v Sunderland - Premier League.
Pardew has a history of touchline histrionics

Even if Alan Pardew’s face off with Hull’s David Meyler was a more head putt than a head butt, the FA appointed independent commission had no option to slap the Newcastle manager in the face with a record seven game ban.

Sensibly Pardew accepted his punishment of being barred from the stadium for three games and four from the touchline.

He has even suggested he may consider extending his exile from the dug out and the so-called technical area for much longer. Let’s hope Pardew sets a trend.

The sight of managers prancing around the technical area ranting and raving at referees or shouting instructions and gesticulating at players is becoming tiresome and often embarrassing.

It’s as if managers now feel they have to put on a sideshow to prove a point to the fans and their bosses up in the directors box of how clever or how good they are and how much they care. The technical area, which was brought in for sound reasons, has been turned into a stage where managers melodramatically strut their stuff.

TV plays its part, constantly zooming in and aware of this many managers play to the cameras as well as the crowd. Some even seem to be afflicted by a form of Tourette’s syndrome during the course of the game.

It gets ever more embarrassing.

Clough and Taylor work their magic calmly from their seats
Clough and Taylor work their magic calmly from their seats

After all, if a manager feels the need to bark constant instructions to his players from the off it raises the obvious question: What on earth has he been doing on the training ground all week and why didn’t he get his point across in the pre-match meeting and team talk?

The great managers like Sir Alf Ramsey, Bill Shankley, Don Revie and Brian Clough would sit still and silent for most of the game knowing that once the players had crossed the white line then there was little they could really do to change the course of things.

The preparation was done and dusted and any major changes to a game plan would have to wait until half-time.

Yes, they would stand up and shout something if they could effect a tactical tweak during play but in essence they knew that once the game had started most words shouted from the sidelines would fall on deaf ears.

Back then there was only one substitute so there was an obvious limit to how much a manager could change. But in that sense managers now have greater ability to alter the course of the game – but they can do that sitting down with a sense of calm and purpose, not like they are about to explode.

Jose is the master of touchline theatre
Jose is the master of touchline theatre

Besides, now as then, in the heat of battle it’s hard for players to take on too many new instructions; indeed information overload can have a negative impact on concentration and confidence.

The most telling time to change the course of a match tactically is still at half time. Deep down Jose Mourinho knows that, and he is a master at making decisive substitutions or tactical changes, especially at the interval.

But he can’t resist playing to the gallery either.

Recently he spoke of modern players looking in the mirror before they leave the dressing room… not for introspection but to check the hair do and so on. Yet many managers must do the same. A slick designer suit, the latest tie knot and cool overcoat, is de rigeour for more and more who sometimes give the technical area the look of a catwalk.

Some, like Roberto Mancini go the extra mile in search of cutting the right image for the cameras – and thus potential sponsors – by adorning a trendy retro scarf as fashion statement.

Looking back it was probably Kenny Dalglish who started it all, in the cross over period when still as player/manager of Liverpool he began to start more game games on the bench. But instead of sitting down like Shanks, Bob Paisley or Joe Fagan before him, Dalglish began the trend of the manager standing up to get a better view of the game.

Kenny Dalglish as then Liverpool manager in 1991-833869
Dalglish: Stood to get a better view of the game

More and more head coaches followed suit and now we have the era of the peacock managers who prance and prattle on the touchline.

But it was only a matter of time before one of them went beyond spitting feathers as did Pardew did.

As a consequence it is to be hoped other managers take note and take a step back from what has become an egotistic sideshow.

It would indeed be great if the technical area was scrapped.

I doubt that will happen, but you never know. Pardew might actually find that sitting up in the stands will give him a far better overview of the game and given how easy it is now to communicate with the coaches down on the bench enable him to make better judgements. And thus make him a better boss and maybe then starting a new trend of managers taking a back seat where they can use their heads, rather than lose their heads.


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