Imagine my surprise last Thursday when, standing sardine-packed on the bus that was to take me and my fellow Easy Jetters to our plane at Barcelona airport, I realised that the man into whose coat my nose was pressed was none other than John Toshack O.B.E., once Liverpool’s top striker and twice (rather briefly) manager of Real Madrid, and now . . . coach of Macedonia. Anyhow, I didn’t give it any more thought until the other evening, when watching the highlights of Swansea City’s defeat of Arsenal on TV, I saw Tosh in the stand, wearing the same rather nasty coat he had on the bus.
Now I don’t want to cast aspersions, but other than beings a truly awful Wales manager (admittedly a thankless job) Toshack has always struck me as a particularly morose figure, and he may have good reason, but it makes you wonder how he inspires his players if he speaks to them with the same enthusiasm that he conveys in interviews. And I mean, christ, does he ever smile? (Actually there are a few pictures of him smiling on the Facebook John Toshack page, but most of them are from his days as a player). Not that smiling is obligatory for football managers, after all they have to spend their lives catering to the whims and wiles of their overpaid moronic prima donna players; but Tosh makes Fergie (Sir Alex Ferguson to those of you who don’t follow football, or soccer) look like Mister Happy.
Of course Swansea was Toshack’s first project as a manager, and a very good job he made of it too, bringing the club from the old Fourth Division to the First in successive seasons. Then he went to Portugal, and then was scooped up by the San Sebastian club Real Sociedad, where he was very successful (as well as being hugely popular with the Basque supporters) before Real Madrid signed him for the first time and from then it was mostly downhill.
Which kind of explains why he was flying Easy Jet. You can’t imagine José Mourinho flying Easy Jet from Barcelona to Bristol, can you? (Actually you can’t imagine Mourinho flying from Barcelona to anywhere). But that is really no excuse for such a glum face. He might, after all have been flying Ryanair.
It did go downhill, sure, but only after the first season at Madrid, 89 -90, when the big fella won la liga, manager of the year, and they scored over a hundred goals.
After that, though, EasyJet all the way.
True, there was a year of glory. Winning la liga for Real Madrid makes it impossible to do anything else but win it again the next year, which is a problem Mourinho will probably not have to face.