I did not watch the television programme last week that followed Sam Allardyce and Dave Bassett, the managers of Bolton Wanderers and Leicester City respectively, but my wife, Paula, was stunned at the stress they were under.Their heart rates during games doubled and nearly tripled, and yet the thing that struck Paula was their helplessness during the actual match. While their hearts raced, all they could do was substitute someone or change tactics, or scream and shout a lot. They do not have the relief of actually being able to make a tackle, or score a goal.At least player-managers can do that, but I am not sure that they suffer any less stress than normal managers. In fact I can't think of a player who combined both roles to the high standards they had set as a player. Kenny Dalglish, Luca Vialli and Ruud Gullit soon became managers rather than player-managers, and although part of the reason was the natural ending of their playing careers, I also believe they found the workload too exhausting.In fact I think managers should have less responsibility, not more.
The big football clubs are, in essence, medium-sized businesses, and how many of those rely on one or two "managers" to make all the decisions.Chelsea had the right idea when they delegated some of the manager's tasks to a managing director, Colin Hutchinson. As I understand it he deals with the finance, transfer negotiations and administration aspects, leaving the football manager, Claudio Ranieri, to concentrate on football.This must benefit the manager's health by removing some of the more onerous and time-consuming tasks from his workload. If anyone is in doubt about the terrible stress that a manager is under they only need watch that TV programme and think of G?rd Houllier.I had my own stress after last week's win against Tottenham. Four of us were selected for a drug test and having just completed about six miles during the match, most of which were at near full pace, I struggled to give a sample.For over an hour I walked around the room drinking pints of water and eventually I managed the required 70ml and was allowed to leave. The rest is obvious, and if anybody witnessed a car pulling up in a lay-by on the A12 and a man standing next to a hedge, I am claiming it wasn't me.. It is turning out to be a typical January for Arsenal. Well placed in the championship race, safely through to the fourth round of the FA Cup and hoping to do better than the season before in the Champions' League.
All that had been missing from the early days of 2002 was the obligatory Patrick Vieira transfer story The wait is over It is turning out to be a typical January for Arsenal. The wait is over. Every year, we are led to believe that the French international is about to leave north London. Juventus, Internazionale, Roma, Barcelona and Milan: you name them, the big European clubs have all sought his signature Yet, so far, Vieira has remained loyal. Having been down this road several times before, it is perhaps no surprise that his manager greeted this week's fresh round of tittle-tattle with a Gallic shrug."I cannot put it more simply than to say he will not go," Wenger declared ahead of today's crucial Premiership match with fellow title hopefuls Leeds United "However much we are offered, he will stay.
What is the point in having a bank full of money if you have no team?"Wenger is in defiant mood, but you wonder how long he can hold on to the midfielder he bought for just Â£3.5 million in 1996. The alleged Â£55m transfer fee aside, it is the identity of the latest suitors which has led so many to think that this time it could be for real – Real Madrid, that is.Vieira is known to be a long-standing admirer of the Spanish giants. He is also great friends with fellow Frenchmen Claude Makelele and Zinedine Zidane, the man he could soon replace as the world's most expensive player. Wenger says that Real have sent him a letter denying any foul play. He also insists that the "Real factor does not make this fresh approach more serious", although it is worth noting that they have managed to prise away both Luis Figo and Zidane from major rivals in the last two seasons.Money plays its part, but it is fair to assume that the lure of the Bernabeu is also such a persuasive factor.