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Living on the Volcano By Michael Calvin

Release date: 01st November, 2015
Publisher: Century

List Price: £19.95
Our Price: £12.74
You Save: £7.21 (36%)
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Cardiff City manager Russel Slade began his managerial career at Notts County more than twenty years ago when he was asked to take on the caretaker’s role, a job that lasted until January 1995. It was not a particularly glorious stint in the hot seat and Slade had to wait a further three years before he was invited to manage another club, this time Sheffield United, where he also acted as caretaker twice in the same season. At the time of writing, Slade has sent out 732 teams as a manager.

Perhaps his most successful spell came at Leyton Orient, a club he saved from relegation after being appointed with half a dozen games of the League One season to go. By 2013-14, he was the division’s Manager of the Season.

Yet having served a lengthy apprenticeship and gained deserved recognition, Slade was undermined when new foreign owners took over at Brisbane Road. They confronted the manager in front of his players and threatened to sack him if he failed to win his next game. Classy eh?

This anecdote, taken from Michael Calvin’s outstanding Living on the Volcano, offers one reason why football supporters should stop and think before slipping into default criticism mode, ie berating the manager when the 11 guys on the pitch are incapable of passing the ball to each other.

A few years ago, Calvin wrote the equally compelling Nowhere Men, a brilliant portrayal of football scouts, and he’s adopted a similar formula here, observing managers from League Two up to the top flight, providing a wonderfully descriptive insight that only this illuminating, fly-on-the-wall style can accomplish.

Calvin speaks with managers such as Ian Holloway, a man who has moved house 32 times in less than 20 years as a football manager. Then there’s Martin Ling, formerly the manager at Leyton Orient and Torquay, who was so badly affected by depression that he underwent a course of ECT (electroconvulsive therapy). Such is the degree of job insecurity, confirmed here by Shaun Derry and, movingly, by Adie Boothroyd, that depression is unusually common amongst football managers.

In Leagues One and Two, managers last an average of seventeen months; in the Championship, the period is an astonishing eight months, or slightly less than one season.

Managers have become easy targets for abuse and criticism while those on the pitch escape censure. After reading this absorbing book, however, no-one will want to automatically pin culpability for indifferent performances upon the man on the sidelines.


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