As the school holidays draws to an end, I have been utilising my time by reading autobiographies from several sporting greats – Really trying to see what is behind their sporting genius. So that’s why I have been reading “The Gaffer” by Neil Warnock…
Aside from his half hearted attempts at humility, it wasn’t a completely awful read. Nah who am I kidding, it was dugmeat. An aspect which stood out was the self congratulatory manner in which he makes a massive song and dance about taking the time to speak to the kit man, tea lady, secretary and office staff at every professional club he has been at. The way he was going on it was as if he deserves a pat on the back. Human gratitude without this patronising approach really should be the bare minimum Neil.
Although in a condescending manner he does have somewhat of a point. In football, there are several people behind the scenes who are integral cogs in the wheel. This is even more so the case in part time football, where those behind the scenes do it for little or no money. I will go through a few examples of the non playing staff I have experienced.
Their traditional university education sets them apart from most in the football dressing room. They are usually outcasts in an environment where many still consider reading a book as goth or geek behaviour. So it takes a bold individual to enter the part time football arena. Step forward Craig Reynolds.
Anyone that has experienced his bizarre personality will certainly remember it but his weirdness is what drew me in. My first experience of Craig was when I had a slight strain in my hamstring; he started to give me treatment whilst I’m lying in nothing but a pair of Calvin Classics. I hadn’t spoken to him much prior to this and there had been a silence of about 7 minutes. Then he spoke:
“This is going to sound weird but I think I should say it… Have you ever fancied your mum?”
“What the Fuck Craigy!?
“Nah it’s nothing to be worried about but I’ve just been reading this book by Sigmund Freud and he says we all want to sleep with our mums and he was very qualified professor so it’s just something to think about”
Silence again for the next 10 minutes. I vowed to never get treatment of that man ever again. However, as time went by I noticed that it was all a bit of a game. He would deliberately say the most uncomfortable thing to slightly unsettle those he was working with and it was like watching an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. His unique form of “banter” would captivate the boys and helped form a jovial atmosphere of the pitch.
Now at Dundee United, I asked him how he was getting on. He responded,
“I was telling the boys about Darwin’s theory of evolution, amazing how little they knew about it. Some of them thought I was making it up. Laughing at me calling me a bullshitter like I was the stupid one. Can you believe it Danny?”
Yes Craig, I’m afraid I can.
Kitman/Jack of all trades
Cheb was the kitman at Livingston as well as doing pretty much every other job at the club. At a turbulent time with rumours of administration looming he would keep everyone’s spirits up in the changing room with his Lochend patter. He was meticulous and professional in his preparation of kit which isn’t easy with the modern day player. Each player with a differing niche, usually a fashion statement like cut socks or tape for their wrists (genuinely baffled by that). It didn’t matter it was always laid out perfectly. As I have probably stated before he picked up the youth team, went to all reserve games, drove the minibus, worked us in the gym and still had the energy to do it all over again the following day. He would treat you like a human and seemed to genuinely care about you. Although, despite being approximately 5 foot 4 he was not a man to be messed with – he even managed to keep Sir Jimmy Scott in line.
Martin Gray, the well known kitman in the Angus area did an awful lot of work behind the scenes at Forfar. A Forfar local and fan that had hands bigger than shovels. Although I disagreed with his opinions a lot of the time you have to give credit to a man that can source and provide shorts wide enough to fit Iain “Yano” Campbell’s hoop in.
Then there is Louise at Arbroath who performs a similar role to Cheb, pretty much doing everything and ensuring all the boys are happy and it goes unnoticed sometimes. She has to deal with the moaning of us players about trivial stuff like the flavour of pasta sauce in the pre match meal, the quality of Pendle training gear and expenses; yet never complains.
There are a plethora of others who contribute to the inner workings of a team. The tea ladies who have always made myself, family and friends feel welcome and have fed me with a steak pie or bridie, The club photographer/videographer who provide excellent highlights, the grounds man, all the volunteers and of course the board of directors for unfortunately having to pay a wage to Mr Pepperammi legs over here. When working in unison, this can play a big part in a clubs rise on and off the pitch.
These unsung heroes, that people out with the club will know very little about are integral to how the club is run and from a players point of view help create a vibrant atmosphere around the club. Although I have mentioned paid staff such as physios, some of the people I have mentioned are volunteers who give up their time for the love of their club. Part time players come from all over and usually have little prior connection and affiliation with the club they are playing for, however these volunteers were here before I got there and will be there long after I’ve gone. Without them the game would quite possibly be dead.
Although we aren’t always forthcoming with our gratitude – we most definitely are. I can also assure you it isn’t in the patronising manner of Mr Neil Warnock either.