John Terry is cast by journalists as an embodiment of all that is wrong with professional football players. Rejecting common decency, parking in disabled spots and sleeping with a team mate’s ex-wife will do that to you. Even Terry’s initials — now a byword for the McClaren era complacency that permeated England’s failed Euro 2008 campaign — has negative connotations.
John Terry has let down Chelsea Football Club on both personal and footballing levels. He missed the penalty that would have won Chelsea the Champions League, and he has consistently failed in his ambassadorial responsibilities. It was he who heckled Americans in an airport days after 9/11, he who slipped to let Robin Van Persie score in October. Yet, despite innumerable managerial changes, Terry remains at the heart of the club’s plans. Captain, Leader, Legend.
It’s been a wild ride for the most important man in football. The role of the manager, British journalist Barney Ronay asserts, has developed dynamically, flourishing despite the multifarious perils of a thankless profession.
That ascent is the subject of The Manager, an entertaining if not particularly enlightening read. The audacious Ronay would surely snigger at any reviewer accusing him of comprehensive analysis or meticulous research. The Manager is too free wheeling for that nonsense. It is by turns a thematic history and a collection of anecdotes, but it is always a hilariously irreverent take on the increasingly ridiculous reality of top-level English football.
To enjoy The Manager, you must accept it for what it is: a charming narrative, but no great work of non-fiction. It’s not that Ronay is incapable of seriousness, he just chooses to avoid it, like a rebellious elementary school student too bored to resist clowning around. Ronay rejects contemplative analysis in favor of a more carefree, jokey approach. His prose is a concentrated mass of adjectives and allusions, a sometimes eloquent, sometimes annoying knot of compound descriptions.