PUB quiz time: How many of the 92 current Premier and Football League managers have had a UK number one hit single?
I reckon it’s four. Mark Hughes (Manchester City), Steve Bruce (Sunderland), Roy Keane (Ipswich) and Paul Ince (MK Dons) were all part of the Manchester United squad which, with rather too much help from Status Quo, topped the hit parade in May 1994 with the unforgettable dirge Come On You Reds.
Even here, though, there’s room for debate. Hughes definitely appears in the video, never taking his eyes off his lyric sheet at any point (in contrast to Lee Sharpe, who confidently chips in with a bit of air guitar at one stage). I think Keane is in there somewhere too, hidden underneath a large red baseball cap. Bruce and Ince are nowhere to be seen – but both are namechecked in the lyrics (which, creatively, managed to rhyme Ince with Giggs).
Mind you, on that basis, I should also include Sir Alex Ferguson, who definitely didn’t perform on the track, even though those who have worked with him closely say he does have a penchant for bursting into song. He’s more into Frank Sinatra and Annie Lennox than the Quo, though.
(There is, incidentally, a wonderful rumour circulating on the internet that Martin O’Neill once had a number one hit in Holland. O’Neill was part of the Nottingham Forest squad that recorded We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands with Paper Lace in 1978. It did chart in the UK, and may even have done so in the Netherlands, but sadly it didn’t get to number one in either country.)
So even though I’ve got a suspicion that Phil Brown might have been Jive Bunny in a previous life, we’ll stick with four. Until yesterday, it was five – but then John Barnes lost his job as manager of Tranmere.
Barnes memorably helped New Order to the top in 1990 with his rapping skills on World In Motion, but his career as a manager has been far less successful. His eight-month stint in charge at Celtic a decade ago was effectively ended by an embarrassing Scottish Cup defeat at the hands of Inverness Caledonian Thistle – prompting the spectacularly brilliant Sun headline: Super Caley Go Ballistic, Celtic Are Atrocious.
His reign at Prenton Park was even shorter, and ended with a whimper by comparison – a Johnstone’s Paint Trophy defeat at Bury. (Super Bury Go Ballistic doesn’t really have the same ring to it.) Tranmere’s fans were not sorry to see him go.
A shame, really, because Barnes is a thoroughly decent chap, who was a brilliant footballer – let’s not forget that he once scored arguably the best England goal of all time, against Brazil in the Maracana 25 years ago. (Soccer AM viewers will also know him as the Under-11 World Baton Twirling champion; the rest of us will remember his unique style as the presenter of Channel Five’s football coverage or as a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing in the days before the show fell apart thanks to a dubious judging panel change, a racism row and too much buggering about with the format.)
And yet as a manager, he just hasn’t got it. After his dismal stint at Celtic, he had to wait nine years for another managerial job, as boss of Jamaica. The sad thing about his appointment at Tranmere in the summer was that very few people expected him to make a success of it.
Barnes’ appointment was itself a surprise. Ronnie Moore had guided Tranmere to within two minutes of the League One play-offs last season, only to be sacked. Chairman Peter Johnson suggested that a drop in crowds during Moore’s three seasons at Prenton Park was the reason for the change. Johnson wanted a bigger name. What he got was an embarrassment.
A friend of mine went to see Tranmere play Colchester a couple of weeks ago, as rumours circulated that the axe was about to fall on Barnes. My friend said that, while Tranmere played some decent stuff, they were wide open defensively. Any team with half-decent strikers would stuff them. A 5-0 defeat at Millwall, a 4-0 home defeat against Charlton and 3-0 defeats at Carlisle and Leeds would appear to bear that out. And although Barnes won two of his first three games in charge, the run of seven straight defeats which followed gave him little chance of surviving.
Physio Les Parry has taken temporary charge for Monday’s home game against Stockport. Unlike Barnes, Parry has never had a number one hit. That’s not for the want of trying, though. Implausibly, Parry released a Christmas single in 2006, apparently entitled I’m Les The White Legs Parry (and set to the tune of Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer), with the aim of raising money for charity.
“It was the worst single ever released,” he said in an interview last year. Ah well. Even if you’d gone all the way to number one with it, Les, it wouldn’t have guaranteed you any success as a football manager.