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11 of the feistiest and funniest manager-journalist meltdowns

Jim Mclean

Poor Krasimir Balakov. The now-former Bulgaria manager has had to resign in the wake of his country's 6-0 shellacking at home to England earlier this month.

It was not, it seems, the complete drubbing that ended his reign, but his willingness to tell any available journalist just how little racism he thinks took place that night, despite all the available evidence to the contrary.

While not every manager gets bogged down in racism-denialism, plenty have had ridiculous run-ins with the press. Here's a few that stand out. 

1. Graham Taylor, 1994

“Well – you worry Rob,” suggested beleaguered England manager Taylor to Daily Express journalist Rob Shepherd, “but don’t make the fucking REST of us worry. Go and worry on your own.”

As England’s 1994 World Cup campaign faltered, and the deciding match with Holland in Rotterdam drew nearer, a morose Shepherd questioned Taylor’s team selection at a notorious pre-match press conference. The startled Express writer was informed by Taylor: “I cannot have faces like yours around me,” and “If you were one of my players Rob, I’d fucking kick you out.”

Unbeknown to Shepherd, a TV camera was filming the whole unseemly saga for the documentary Do I Not Like That? As it turned out, Shepherd was right to worry about England’s chances; they lost 2-0 to Holland, which ultimately ended their qualification chances.

2. Joe Kinnear, 2008

“Which one of you is Simon Bird?” enquired enraged Newcastle boss Kinnear. When the Mirror journalist answered in the affirmative, the new Toon manager informed him: “You’re a c***.”

That was Kinnear’s opening salvo in his first press conference (during which the chirpy ex-Wimbledon boss swore 52 times in five minutes) after taking the managerial reins in October 2008 following Kevin Keegan’s departure. Bird and Express writer Niall Hickman had infuriated Kinnear by claiming in their respective articles that he’d given the players a day off on his first day.

“I was busy doing other things like meeting the owners. What you’ve said undermines my position, and makes it look like all the players fucked off.”

That fractious news conference set the tone for his troubled four-month stay at Newcastle. By February, the Toon were mired in relegation trouble and Kinnear needed a heart bypass operation.

3. Alex Ferguson pt.I, 2002

Former Manchester United manager Ferguson was notorious for banning journalists from press conferences or simply walking out when he tired of answering their questions.

One of his most notorious rants came at the tail end of the 2001/02 campaign. With big-money signing Juan Sebastian Veron struggling for form, the Scot launched an impassioned defence of his Argentine playmaker, telling the press: “It’s been a witch hunt,” before concluding: “He is a fucking great player... and youse are all fucking idiots.”

With that, he disappeared into the night.

4. Brian Clough, 1973

“I don’t speak to cheating bastards,” barked the late Clough at a gaggle of Italian hacks after his Derby side lost 3-1 to Juve in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final at the Stadio delle Alpi. Weeks later, Clough claimed: “Juventus bought the referee. Of that there is no shadow of a doubt.”

With five minutes gone, Rams striker Kevin Hector was tripped inside the Juve penalty area. The referee waved away Derby’s prolonged protests. Archie Gemmill and Roy McFarland were booked for two trivial offences within the first 15 minutes, meaning they’d miss the return leg at the Baseball Ground. Add in West Germany international Helmut Haller’s infamous ‘conversation’ with compatriot referee Gerhard Schulenberg at half-time, and Clough’s fury was understandable.

English journalist Brian Glanville had the unenviable task of explaining Clough’s “bastard” jibe at the subsequent press conference after Derby’s defeat. The Rams could only scrape a 0-0 draw in the return. This time, Clough refused to “give anytime whatsoever to cheating Italian worsdmiths. They can shove it.”

Just so it was nice and clear.

5. Jim McLean, 2000

Former Dundee United manager McLean always had a reputation for being hard faced and uncompromising, but the ex-Tannadice supremo – now chief executive – overstepped the mark when he punched BBC sports reporter John Barnes in the face.

“How long do you give Alex Smith to get it right on the park?” enquired the mic man. Smith virtually self-combusted: “You think I’m going to answer a stupid question like that? I told you before I wouldn’t be fucking answering it. And make sure that’s cut.”

It wasn't. With that, McLean stomped off, whacking Barnes on the nose as he went. McLean promptly resigned, admitting: “There was no excuse for that kind of behaviour.”

6. Harry Redknapp, 2010

Following an early-season defeat to Wigan in August 2010, Tottenham boss Harry Redknapp was asked by Sky Sports’ Rob Palmer if he might take a late dip in the transfer window. Unfortunately for the reporter, however, he quickly infuriated the Spurs boss by suggesting that he’d established a reputation for being a “wheeler dealer”.

At that point, Redknapp promptly told Palmer to “fuck off”. “I didn’t mean it like that,” pleaded a contrite Palmer, but was reminded by a now-off-screen Redknapp: “Don’t say that, I’m a fucking football manager.” Within a matter of hours, though, ‘Arry was winding down the window of his car answering Sky reporters’ questions about possible late signings.

7. Roy Keane, 2009

“Why don’t you turn it off?” a furious Roy Keane asked one quivering journalist, when his mobile phone rang for the second time in the midst of an already-tense exchange about Thierry Henry’s infamous handball that helped Ireland miss out on qualification for the 2010 World Cup.

IN THE MAGIreland and France players remember Le Hand of God, 10 years on

Keane was about as impressed with the journalist’s “I’ll just let it ring out” response as he apparently was with the lax Irish defending which led to Gallas’s goal. “Oh right, that’s good manners,” Keane huffed, before continuing to rant about “Irish excuses”.

Not before he’d shot the nervous fella a look which could make hell freeze over, though. Worse still, it happened again in 2014 during the former Manchester United hardnut’s book launch.

8. Alex Ferguson pt.II, 2004

Yeah, him again – but possibly the best explosion on this list. In December 2004, Wayne Rooney had been a silly boy. The then-19-year-old had been caught on camera pushing his hand into Bolton defender Tal Ben Haim’s face (who duly obliged with some bottom-drawer play acting), and was facing a three-match ban from the FA when Fergie was quizzed on the matter.

Yes, the Scot understood it would get some attention – it was Rooney, wasn’t it? But hadn’t the Bolton player made a right meal of it...

“I think we accepted that he did that,” began one brave journalist. Cue the rage (which we've starred out this time, just because... well, there's quite a lot of it). According to Daniel Taylor in Sir Alex Ferguson: The Uncut Story of a Football Genius, Ferguson spat: “You accepted it?! Well you’ve not f***ing written enough about it.

“You’re f***ing on about Rooney, because he has a wee slap in the face and no matter whatever f***ing else matters in the f***ing game? You see f***ing behaviour like that! He should be up before the FA, not f***ing Rooney. You are allowing that c*** to cheat.   

[More ranting later] “He’s a human being like everyone else. He’s 19 years of age. Jesus Christ, what do you f***ing want? Blood out of the boy? You f***ing crucify him every f***ing time. He’s a f***ing 19-year-old boy. Right?

[A bit more ranting later] “I’m not f***ing saying anything more about it now. It’s up to you to f***ing do it. F***ing joke he is, lying about, rolling about in f***ing agony. Any other player than Rooney, you wouldn’t have bothered your arse.”

At this point, Fergie flings his arm out at the tape recorders in front of him, sending them smashing into a wall close by. “It’s over, right?” he huffs. “You can get out. Press conference finished. You’ve got me to lose my temper. Wonderful!”

Wonderful indeed.

9. Nigel Pearson, 2015

Daily Express journalist Ian Baker described it as a “career highlight” after the Leicester boss compared him with an ostrich in April 2015.

Following a defeat to Chelsea, Pearson suggested that his Foxes players had received criticism throughout the season. When asked to clarify his comments – “I can’t recall a struggling team which has actually received so much praise,” Baker replied, not unfairly – Pearson launched into a bonkers rant, suggesting that Baker had his “head in the sand”.

After asking the journalist if he was “flexible enough” to do this, Pearson departed. Odd. And a little disturbing.

10. Ian Holloway, 2013

“He might be out for about six months,” claimed tetchy Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway after a gaggle of reporters asked him for an update on Manchester United target Wilfried Zaha’s ankle injury in January 2013.

Not in the best of moods anyway after his side’s 4-1 FA Cup defeat to Premier League side Stoke, Holloway claimed that a long injury lay-off for his prized asset would be the only way the press might stop speculating about Zaha’s long-term future. “Can we get a straight answer please?” enquired a hopeful reporter, to which he was greeted with a: “Why should I?”

He also sounded off about the “ridiculousness” of the transfer window (“If I run out of eggs, or bread, or I want to get a paper, I go to the shop – but you can’t do that outside of the transfer window”) and suggested that the assembled journalists “go and get a job… get a life” instead of, y’know, writing about Zaha. You can’t argue with logic like that.

11. Alex Ferguson pt.III, 2007

Haven’t had enough Fergie yet? Good. Turns out the former United boss wasn’t best pleased after finding out Sky Sports’ Geoff Shreeves had asked Cristiano Ronaldo whether there’d actually been contact on him for a match-winning penalty against Middlesbrough in the FA Cup.

According to The Sun, Fergie’s post-match blast on Shreeves was so loud that a post-match interview with Gareth Southgate had to be abandoned. 

That rant, then (as reported by the newspaper):

Shreeves: “I asked him.”

Fergie: “F***ing bastard.”

Shreeves: “Don’t talk to me like that.”

Fergie: “F*** off to you.”

Shreeves: “Don’t talk to me like that. Don’t even think about it.”

Fergie: “Don’t you think about it, you ***. F*** off. Right?”

Shreeves: “Listen, are you going to do the interview in a professional manner or not? Do you want to do it or not?”

Fergie: “You f***ing be professional. You be professional. You’re the one.”

Shreeves: “I’m entitled to ask. Cristiano gave the right answer.”

Fergie: “F***ing hell with your answers.”

Shreeves: “Don’t talk to me like that. Go away. If you want to behave civilly, fine. Don’t talk to me like that.”

Fergie: “F*** off.”


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Jon Spurling is a history and politics teacher in his day job, but has written articles and interviewed footballers for numerous publications at home and abroad over the last 25 years. He is a long-time contributor to FourFourTwo and has authored seven books, including the best-selling Highbury: The Story of Arsenal in N5, and Get It On: How The '70s Rocked Football was published in March 2022.