Neil Adams has already proven himself in front of the camerasIn the latest edition of his monthly blog, Senior Club Journalist Ben Mouncer discusses the relationship between the media and the football manager.
As one of those folk whose skill at the art (and it definitely is an art) of ‘small talk’ is barely passable, the question ‘how’s work?’ is just one of a number that will almost always leave me rooted to the spot, and that’s more often than not in front of those familiar to me.
I can only imagine, then, facing queries about my job and all it entails every week. Answering enquiries designed as gusts of wind to push me off the tightrope. Nearly all on camera, with thousands of people hanging on my every word and many more waiting to chuckle, gasp or rage at the slightest hint of err.
I introduce you to the world of the football manager.
As Norwich City ‘gaffer’, to use the vernacular of the business, Neil Adams will form answers to roughly 2,000 questions from journalists over the course of this season.
That figure has been whipped up using estimated averages from his usual weekly media routine: pre and post-match press briefings for the 46 Sky Bet Championship fixtures, slightly reduced workloads for five friendlies and four cup games (we hope for more!) and with one further off diary interview on average every seven days for the duration of the campaign.
It’s a blessing, therefore, that Neil is a natural talker. He’s said before that his voice was always the most familiar to the referee when he was a player, and he took that talent for transmission to the airwaves, becoming a highly respected radio summariser when not putting in the hours on the touchline as part of his day job with the Canaries’ Academy back in the day.
While his short time in the spotlight has seen him move seamlessly in that regard up to now, even the most erudite in the game occasionally slip up under the 24-hour glare that goes beyond just illuminating modern football, as seen with England manager Roy Hodgson last week.
That Hodgson replied to one of those questions – an abrupt analysis concerning his team’s short supply of shots on target in their friendly against Norway – with irritation and a few, shall we say, strong words, meant many more headlines were formed referring to that answer than any of the other considered and intelligent ones that he will have offered.
How do you achieve a balance? Club press people like me are left nervously hopping around media rooms across the country if Mr Controversial takes over the hot seat, with his habit of feeding journalists the lines that repeatedly leave them licking their lips and wanting more.
Yet no fan wants to hear the leader of their team trotting out the same managerial clichés if it goes the other way, and with that fan having stronger opinions and more platforms than ever to air them, even discussion about managerial clichés has become clichéd in its own right.
I’ve always thought it would change things up a bit to have a very young supporter given ownership of the microphone after a game to offer the kind of honest inquisition only they could.
Or if there’s a boss with a particular penchant for saying the same thing, why not impose on him the rules of the long-running radio panel show ‘Just A Minute’? An interview that has to be conducted without hesitation (to not criticise the referee), repetition (of said criticism) or deviation (back to that criticism).
Thankfully, our manager’s professionalism means those irresponsible ideas of mine will never see the light of day. I’ve troubled him for words many, many times and his answers are always lengthy, honest and thought-provoking.
Keep it up though Neil, there are hundreds more questions to come between now and next May!