Being a contemporary football manager is a much more complicated business than it used to be in decades past. No longer is it just about the football as now it’s almost mandatory for modern managers to be media-savvy ambassadors for their club too – as competent with journalists as they are with their players.
We miss the days when PR competency and a capacity to stay rigidly on message wasn’t a prerequisite for the men who led our football teams. Back then managers invariably had a natural suspicion of people who had mostly never played football and yet made careers writing and speaking about it. At best such people were considered an irritant and at worst a downright menace leeching a living from the game.
You would have had to travel far and wide to find such an unreformed throwback of a manager as former Rangers legend Jock Wallace. A hero to the club’s support, a winner of two domestic Scottish trebles and apparently very kind to children and animals; Jock’s professional demeanour was, to put it charitably, gruff; gruffer than the spawn of Gruff Rhys from the Super Furry Animals mating with the Gruffalo.
Jock liked his players but still infamously forced them to run up and down sand dunes in pre-season training until they vomited, so the football media, whom he did not like, was treated as contemptuously as something his size 12 boot had trodden on in the Malayan jungle during his military service. The wonderful clip above shows Jock at his pugilistic best, devouring then spitting out the bones of a poor STV reporter trying to secure a post-match pitchside interview. The occasion was the 1984 Scottish League Cup Final with Rangers having defeated Celtic 3-2, a game the manager claimed in advance to have the ‘battle fever on’ for.
Big Jock starts to veer in a manner that modern media types would call ‘off message’ when he jocularly feigns to headbutt the apprehensive young fellow. With the scenario slipping disastrously out of his grip for reasons out with his ability to influence, the reporter gamefully tries to persuade Jock to wait around until he gets word from his producer that the interview can go live. You can see him visibly wilt in the face of a torrent of invective barked by Jock in his default sergeant-major delivery. It’s the sort of hilarious car-crash interview we just couldn’t imagine happening these days, more’s the pity.
And if you think it makes uncomfortable viewing, just remember this was Happy Jock who had just won a major trophy against his club’s bitterest rivals. We shudder to imagine the outcome had Rangers lost the Final and the same chap attempted to secure that interview with Unhappy Jock. It wouldn’t have ended well for him or his raincoat.