Anger Management

The pressures of top-flight football, combined with the sensationalist media that cover it, mean that managers' tempers can boil over at any point - and the increasing frequency of outbursts has led to a healthy vernacular in football circles. Be it anger directed towards an official, the establishment, an opponent, or even their own club, managers' vitriolic flurries are reported in the same predictable way as anything else.

The varying degrees of such displays of discontent can be displayed in the Anger Severity Scale (ASS), pictured below.

Fig 1.0 - Anger Severity Scale (ASS) - Click to enlarge
Bemoan - A fairly victimless rant. Managers tend to bemoan their bad luck, be it in front of goal or with 50/50 decisions - although referees are spared direct criticism.

Sideswipe - A brief, often sarcastic, comment made in a press conference, usually to the detriment of another team or individual. This is lapped up by the gathered hacks, who rub their hands with glee at another ready-made headline. The effect of a sidewipe is usually minimal and short-lived, although it can, on occasion, be the catalyst for a war of words.

Responded Angrily To... - As managers point out, speculation is part and parcel of the game. Sometimes though, the rumour-mongers succeed in riling a manager to the point where they feel compelled to respond angrily to reports over their future. It's usually an overreaction - they are far better advised to laugh off, dismiss, or quash speculation instead.

Branded - It is at this point on the Anger Severity Scale that things become slightly more venomous. The soapbox of the post-match interview is used to bring the reputation of an opponent into question. Branding is usually inflicted upon gravitationally-challenged opposing forwards, who run the siginificant risk of being branded a "diver", or even branded a "cheat".

Parting Shot - Departing managers or players, especially in acrimonious circumstances, are likely to fire a rather bitchy parting shot. Sounding rather like a childish "didn't like your stupid club anyway!" when relations have turned sour, it also functions as a way of ingratiating themselves with their new employers and fans.

Hit Out - An angrier cousin of the act of bemoaning, hitting out tends to be directed towards a general topic - such as the influx of foreign players to the Premiership, for example. More specific targets can include FIFA's clown-in-chief Sepp Blatter, PFA chairman Gordon Taylor or rule-changing UEFA upstart Michel Platini.

Tirade - Included higher up on the ASS than you might expect. What the tirade lacks in explosiveness, it more than makes up for in length and despair. A manager, who feels he has been at the wrong end of one too many controversial refereeing decisions, may embark on/launch a furious tirade on the general standard of officiating. A tirade is always limited to general topics.

War of Words - A war of words can have several causes. It could be instigated by a sideswipe, a parting shot or a branding. The newspapers adore a good war of words, as it can stretch a very minor story over an entire week. Other elements of a war of words are expanded upon later.

Haranguing - Very possibly now included in the official Laws of the Game as a specific offence, haranguing the referee is an issue that can rear its ugly head at any time. Pioneered by Manchester United's ravenous pursuit of Andy D'Urso a few years ago , it has been adopted by teams up and down the land. There is no official confirmation as to how many players are required for haranguing to occur, but The Angle... would suggest that a minimum of three protesting players would suffice.

Fumed - Similar to a tirade, although shorter and more likely to be targeted at an individual (usually a referee or linesman)

Stinging Rebuke - Another important component of the war of words. The stinging rebuke often has highly moralistic overtones, but is mainly designed to re-open a war of words, or to reignite/fuel a feud.

Volley of Abuse - Shower of spittle optional, the volley of abuse has been mastered by Wayne Rooney. Littered with four-letter words, the volley of abuse is arguably the most severe on-pitch display of discontent.

Attack - Invariably "launched", attacks are as versatile as they are effective. This is reflected in the three sub-divisions of attack, which are highlighted further down. A bog-standard, basic-model attack occurs when a manager is far too angry to bemoan anything, and wants to make his point quicker than a tirade will allow him to.

As pointed out by our Norwegian correspondent Kris Wendelborg, attacks can also be thinly-veiled. Thinly-veiled attacks are, of course, more stealthy in nature than standard attacks, and require a bit more spin from the newspapers in order to initiate a war of words. Managers operating on a shoestring budget may wish to recycle the veil - used to unveil them when they were first appointed - to launch a thinly-veiled attack, although there is no current authority on the degrees of veil thickness in football.

Scathing/Blistering Attack - The first two rather more volatile forms of attack are the scathing and blistering attacks. A scathing attack is more useful for angry disapproval of the behaviour of an individual or organisation. A player may face a scathing attack from an opposing manager if he is branded a "diver", while the FA may well suffer the same fate because of their shambolic procedures.

A blistering attack marks the first point on the ASS where a distinct loss of control from the angry party can be identified. Its recklessness, coupled with the notable disregard for the implications of the attack, makes it a suitable bedfellow for the parting shot. Blistering attacks are a popular weapon of choice for bitter departing players, who may wish to blame their flopping on their former manager and his training methods.

Slam - The most severe form of condemnation an individual can receive. Short, sharp and to-the-point, a slam leaves the media in no uncertainty. As with many components of the ASS, the slam's effect benefits from the violent connotation of the word.

Blast - The last commonly-occurring element of the ASS, blasts are likely to appear on a weekly basis. Similar to the slam in many ways, but the implication is there is a significantly lower level of restraint.

Lambast - Nobody ever lambasts anyone outside of football. Your mother never lambasted you for not wiping your feet before you went in the house, your Maths teacher never lambasted you for chatting at the back, and your girlfriend never lambasts you for not giving her enough attention. Much like "lacksadaisical" or "derisory", you can guarantee that the average football fan is only aware of this word through football coverage. In fact, given that it also only ever crops up in print, no-one is even really sure how to pronounce it (is it "lamBAST", "lamBAYST" or "lamBARST"?!)

Nonetheless, if a lambasting takes place, then it is surely in response to a heinous misdemeanour.

Vitriolic Outburst - Effectively the equivalent of a volley of abuse, but in earshot of the media. Vitriolic outbursts are, alas, not often caught by cameras but can appear "exclusively" in The Sun or the News of the World. Axed managers or frozen-out players are most likely to have a vitriolic outburst.

Astonishing Attack - The pinnacle of football anger. While football media coverage is awash with superlatives, there are a select few adjectives that are still used suitably sparingly. "Horrific" injuries are almost always so, for example. Astonishing attacks befit their name - they can be directed at unexpected targets at any time. The standard example would be a manager or chairman launching an astonishing attack on his own club's fans, but other instances have had the potential to shock.

Yours in anger,


The Footballer's Timeline

Players' ages are seemingly more significant than ever before. Be it a starlet or a stalwart, a player can be defined heavily by his age. As a result, there are more than a few cliches that can be identified and thet are brought together here in the Footballer's Timeline:

3 - started kicking a ball
13 - playing for Under-15s local side, possibly Wallsend Boys Club, despite being two years younger
14 - Rejected by professional club for being "too small"
17 years and 113 days - Becomes club's youngest ever player, when he makes debut, as substitute, in the Carling Cup.
17 years and 117 days - Becomes club's youngest ever League player, when he makes debut, as substitute.
17 years and 123 days - Becomes club's youngest ever goalscorer. Even if goal is tap-in, player will instantly become one to watch.
18 - signs 5-year contract. called up by Under-21s.
19 - England debut. Fears of burnout are raised in the media.
20 - Three points on driving licence.
20 - Age at which a youngster, having worked his way through the club's Academy, is farmed out on loan to a lower-league club. Although this move is officially sanctioned in order for the player to gain first-team experience, it is in fact a way of preparing the player for the lower-league football they'll face when they are released the following summer, after finding their first-team opportunities limited.
21 - People begin to tend to forget he is still only 21.
22 - A watershed. At this point onwards, a player is allowed to use the phrase "at this stage of my career, I need to be playing first-team football". This stage of his career will, in fact, last about 15 years.
23 - Too old for the Under-21s, and not good enough for the full national side, a player's England B career begins.
28 – the absolute final age possible to be signed from non-league and also the point at which all blokes in the country can officially admit to themselves and their mates that “they’re not going to make it”
28 – also the age when all outfield players are considered to be at their peak.
28 - also the age where chronic injury forces the player to retire from the game at the age of 28. The player did not take this decision lightly, and will miss the matchday buzz, but wants to be able to play football in the garden with his children while he still can
31 - Age at which international retirement is announced, in order to concentrate/focus on club commitments. Such a decision will be credited with adding two or three years on to the player's career
32 – goalkeepers are said to reach their peak
32 – Player is approached to come out of international retirement
33 - Veteran status achieved. Players still at the top level will be labelled "evergreen"
34 – Player reveals that he is taking his coaching badges
35 - Former international player now legally eligible for move to Qatar.
37 - Outfield player's career nears its end, and the player smugly reveals how he is taking each game as it comes and just enjoying it. Others will observe with awe how the player has "looked after himself".
40 – goalkeepers travel the country as emergency cover for teams with a goalie injury crisis. Any move will, of course, be subject to special dispensation.