Madcap Mad Dog relishing Cheltenham challenge

Mike Holden explains why he's a happy man now Martin Allen is back on the managerial map...

"There has yet to be a dull moment in the fortnight that has passed since Martin Allen took over as Cheltenham Town manager," reported the Gloucestershire Echo on Monday, without a trace of inevitability.

Meanwhile, the following day, chairman Paul Baker described the first couple of weeks of Allen’s tenure at Whaddon Road as "exciting and enlivening" before enquiring as to why so many reporters had turned up to a random Tuesday afternoon press conference.

For those of us who have followed Mad Dog’s career with a keen interest ever since he started taking his clothes off and jumping in stone-cold rivers as a means of motivating players before big matches, the world is a happier place once again.

Back in the game: Allen takes up the Whaddon Road hot-seat 

Now we can look forward to an endless stream of yet more madcap man-management techniques and bizarre anecdotes or analogies in post-match interviews.

Anyone who harboured slight concerns that the eccentric side of Allen’s character might be suppressed following his sacking at Leicester didn’t need to worry for long.

In his first interview as Cheltenham boss, he treated one radio station to a potted history of his childhood, painting walls and sweeping stands at Whaddon Road when his late father was the manager of the Robins in the 1970s.

It was an account so wrapped up in nostalgia, you half-expected the station to start playing the second movement from Dvorak’s New World Symphony in the background – a tune which, I’m reliably informed, later became quite popular on an advert for Hovis bread.

Anyway, that was just for starters. He wasn’t even trying to be wacky in that instance.

No, the first real taste of Mad Dog came at the club’s training base in Swindon Village when he came up with the novel idea of a ‘speed dating’ session between the players and his backroom staff.

So everybody got a minute of intimacy in each other’s company to explain their roles within the club and ask the usual questions, like:

Which clubs have you played for in the past?What on earth are we supposed to be doing?Do you think we should take this seriously, he strikes me as a bit of a loon?Jesus, what’s he like when he’s angry?Anyway, apparently, it went down a storm.

“It was a good experience and I’m hoping to do this on a regular basis so there’s not a feeling of ‘them and us’ at the training ground,” said Allen, with a squad of 23 players and eight coaching staff nodding appreciatively in the background.

But then I guess that’s what makes Mad Dog such a special character because he can suggest pretty much anything in the world and his players, staff, even opponents will just go along with it because they’re never quite sure of the consequences when you say ‘No’.

"You don't want to see me when I'm angry..." 

Part of me thinks Martin Allen is just a geek who doesn’t realise he has this reputation of being an absolute nutter. He just goes through life suggesting all these outlandish ideas, wondering how magnificent it is that the human race is so co-operative.

Then the other part of me thinks that one person – just once – got on the wrong side of him and the story is just so gruesome that people dare not relay the details for fear of what happens to a ‘grass’.

In which case, I didn’t just call him a geek.

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