International week means the absence of any meaningful football. So your intrepid diarists have had to resort to a little burglary to keep things ticking over. Several daring break-ins, one high-speed car chase, three dog bites, and two forged passports later, we can reveal these exclusive extracts from the diaries of various Premier League managers. No, no need to thank us. Just doing our jobs.
[Jose Mourinho’s diary is largely illegible. Long strings of apparently random numbers interspersed with diagrams of constellations and agricultural machinery, though the labels on these diagrams appear to be composed in some complex substitution cipher that we have been unable to crack. The only exceptions come toward the middle, where several pages simply read THEY HURT BRAN DON’T HURT BRAN, over and over again. The final third of the diary is missing, the pages apparently torn out.]
Louis van Gaal
L: You have to drop him.
VG: I can’t.
L: You must.
VG: I can’t.
L: He’s destroying you.
VG: But he is … precious to me.
L: He’s destroying your team! He’s making you look foolish!
VG: But I wants him. I needs him. He is my captain. My precious.
L: He might be injured. Roy Hodgson didn’t pick him.
VG: Oh thank God. Right, let’s pick a proper midfield.
They said it would never work. They said we’d never get back to where we belonged. But they reckoned without Arsene Wenger. They reckoned without Arsenal. They reckoned without Chelsea falling to pieces, without Liverpool falling to pieces, without Manchester United doing sort of okay against rubbish teams but being nothing special, really.
They reckoned without Arsenal! Keep doing the same thing, year after year, and eventually, sooner or later, everybody else will get bored. That’s entropy. That’s the law of the universe. The Premier League is wide open. This is our time. This is our opportunity. This is our moment. We’re going to finish second, and nobody’s going to stop us.
The bottom half of my face feels like it’s going to fall off. I had to smile when I met the press. I had to smile when I met the owners. I had to smile when I met the squad—and I tell you, meeting some of that lot, I nearly burst into tears. God, I wish I’d decided to cultivate a reputation as a miserable disciplinarian. Those bastards have all the fun. I swear, if I have to smile one more time for a photographer, I’m going to take his lens and show him what gegenpressing really means.
As Keats once wrote, “every man whose soul is not a clod / Hath visions, and would speak, if he had loved / And been well-nurtured in his mother tongue.” God knows, I am no orator. Yet I, undeserving as I am, have been given a chance once again. To take control of one of these great conflagrations of thought and deed and heart we call football clubs, and so through that club, to speak, in the only way I know. To express who I am, to live, to be, and through being, to feel. To open my soul once again to the cold wind, and feel it nourish me.
Perhaps, given the chance at another life, I might have made my way as a poet. Instead, I have been doomed to spill not ink but sweat; to conjure not truth, nor beauty, but solid defensive organisation, competition for the second ball, and Kevin Nolan. Ah, Kevin! We will do beautiful things once again.
More Keats, I think. “Though a quarrel in the streets is a thing to be hated, the energies displayed in it are fine.” Let us bring some fine energy to this Stadium of Light.
Today was nice I went to the football club again. I saw Guzan and Richards and Sinclair and Gabby and all the rest. They asked me how they should play football and I told them to score more goals than the other team and they laughed and said “right, but seriously” and I laughed. Afterwards I went to the club shop and bought a hat and a new ball and a cuddly lion who I will call Tim. I had egg and chips for tea it was nice. Then I was tired so I went home and had a nap.