A former Premier League manager approached us here at GSITM and asked that we publish his diaries, so he could show the public what life is like out of the game. His only request was that he remained anonymous. Below is this week’s entry:
In last week’s diary entry, I showed you my infallible pre-season training regime. I’m sure that many managers are already using it and getting the same level of performances that I have achieved in the past. I’m also sure that plenty won’t be. You can’t teach genius.
This week, I’m going to move onto the other side of pre-season: the pre-season tour. Now they’re a ridiculously corporate disgrace to the game of football. Back when I was in charge, that transformation was only just beginning. Pre-season tours felt more like a stag do, without any sexual deviancy, I hasten to add.
Below are the two wildest stories from my various pre-season tours at Charlton and West Ham.
In the summer of 2002, I took my Charlton squad over to Spain. We had finished 14th in the previous season, consolidating our Premier League status after the crazy over-achievement the season before that, when we finished 9th.
The club had enough money to take us to an amazing five-star hotel. However, the owners didn’t have a desire to spend that amount of money, so we found ourselves in a four-star hotel. That one star means an awful lot, let me tell you.
On the second day, the team met in the hotel for a buffet lunch. It had been a particularly gruelling training session the day before. We were in the limbo stage of my training regime so several of the squad were hunched over, clutching their backs. They were relieved to be able to enjoy the mountain of food in front of them. Especially considering they didn’t have to duck under a pole to get to it.
Boy, could those men eat. Graham Stuart actually managed to unhinge his jaw while tackling a robust piece of chicken. But all in all, the squad had a lovely luncheon. I had been following my own, homemade diet (I was an early adopter of avocado and quinoa), so I stuck to my own packed lunch.
That turned out to be a lucky decision. The entire squad was hit with severe food poisoning. There was a biblical amount of vomit. In Shaun Bartlett’s room, it was shin deep. I went to check on him, only to see him floating across the floor. I still get traumatic flashbacks of that image.
We complained to the hotel, but such was the damage caused by the outbreak that we actually lost our damage deposit. I decided there and then that I would never eat at a buffet again and I have stuck by that declaration to this day.
West Ham 2007-8
By this point, Premier League clubs had cottoned on to the financial benefits a pre-season tour can bring. That was how West Ham ended up in Hong Kong in the summer of 2007, with arguably the best squad I have ever managed.
On the first night, Luis Boa Morte threw what he called a ‘Boa Morte Fun Time Ding Dong’, which is a party to anyone else. He was terrible with titling. His house was called ‘The House That Former Arsenal Winger Luis Boa Morte Lives In.’ Truly pathetic.
Matthew Upson was the DJ for the night. He started off well, but he then played Umbrella by Rihanna EIGHTY-FOUR times in a row. He was eventually wrestled from the decks, screaming as he went. I heard that Rihanna has a restraining order filed against him.
Come the morning, there was no sign of Dean Ashton. He had attended the party and had a great time while he was there. He hadn’t even fallen out with anyone or thrown an ice sculpture out of an eleventh storey window. Carlton Cole had done that.
After searching everywhere, we finally informed the security staff. They caught Dean on the CCTV camera in the lift. He was slumped in the corner wearing only his underwear, looking utterly defeated.
‘How long has he been there?’ I asked.
They rewound the tape. We watched Dean’s evening in reverse at high speed. Firstly (so lastly in real time), we saw him slumped him in the corner. Then we watched him pacing around looking at his watch, before taking his clothes off (although it looked like he was putting them on) and scrabbling at all the corners of the lift looking for an exit. (EDITOR’S NOTE: Alan went into extreme detail about some of the more disgusting acts that Dean performed, I decided to remove them due to their abhorrent nature). In the end, it turned out he had been there for twelve hours.
We eventually got Dean out. He had a great season that year too. Such a good season that I regularly trapped him in lifts to try and instigate improved performances. Nowadays he cannot set foot in them. This isn’t a bad thing, after all, climbing stairs will do him good.
So there you have it. If you’re out on a pre-season tour now, I have two pieces of advice: don’t eat at a buffet and don’t let your best striker in a lift.