Saturday, 10 October 2015


Off to Malton today where I will be in the Old Town Hall from 5.30 talking about, amongst other things, Bobby Smith, the ironstone miner from Lingdale in East Cleveland  who won the double with Spurs and is probably the most Northern looking bloke in football history.

Our visit to Easington Collier last week was enlivened by a couple of fans from Hartlepool. One of them reacted to a forward bottling a one-on-one with the keeper by turning to me and saying, 'See that? He's quick, but he's taffy-hearted,' an expression of deepest scorn I hadn't heard since my Granddad died.

Here's something I wrote for the Boro programme a couple of years back.

In football these days we hear a lot of talk about passion. It’s not enough just to have it, you have to show you have it, whether you’re a player, fan or even a manager. When Sven Goran Eriksson was in charge of England he was often criticised for not racing from the dug-out and throwing a few water bottles while yelling at the 4th official about a throw-in decision.

As someone who grew up on Teesside in the era when men only waved their arms around when they were trying to punch one another, I find this belief in the benefits of hysteria baffling. When it comes to coaching it isn’t borne out by history, either. Don Revie spent practically the whole of every game sitting on the bench with his hands between his thighs looking for all the world like a man on a long bus journey who’s regretting having that pot of tea before he set out. Bob Paisley watched every
game with the benign smile of an elderly uncle attending a niece’s 5th birthday party.


Two other successful English managers who – when it came to emotions at least – kept their vests firmly tucked into their underpants were Alf Ramsey and Stan Cullis.. The better known of the two, Sir Alf demonstrated his reserve during the 1966 World Cup, famously remarking, when his trainer - Boro’s own Harold Shepherdson - jumped up from the bench in celebration of Geoff Hurst’s victory-sealing goal, “Sit down, Harold. I can't see.” What is less well known is that after the team’s celebratory dinner that night, Ramsey took a taxi back to Wembley and ran a solo lap of honour in the empty stadium. He didn’t want anyone to see how happy he was. He felt it would undermine his authority.

Stan Cullis helped transform Wolves into the best team in Europe (the North-East's contribution was winger Jimmy Mullen from Newcastle who managed to evade the local clubs despite being an England schoolboy international). Cullis was such a puritan he not only didn’t smoke or drink, he didn’t swear either, filling his half-time team talks with 'flippings' and 'floppings'. (He was also, in all probability, the only top flight English manager to speak Esperanto.)
Brought up dirt poor on Merseyside, Cullis didn’t jump about, or make feeble attempts to head butt opposition players, but his team knew where they stood. “Stan united the side,” Wolves defender Eddie Clamp recalled later, “We all hated him”.

Clamp had reason to feel bitter. A notorious hard man who terrorised opposition wingers, Clamp broke his leg in a European tie. He was stretchered off the field. As he passed Cullis, the manager leaned over and whispered, “Not so tough now, are you?”

Shouting doesn’t mean a manager is passionate. It just means he’s noisy.

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