Wednesday, 20 August 2014

WHEN IT WAS ALWAYS WINTER BUT NEVER XMAS

The joke on Tyneside ran:
Kenny Dalglish goes into a pub.
It's heaving.
Dalglish says to the barman, 'Why so busy?'
'It's happy hour,' the barman replies.
' I better leave, then,' says Kenny Dalglish.

The Scot's time at Newcastle was running out and he was even more surly than usual when the following incident occurred.


 

People who know Kenny Dalglish say that in private he is a warm and witty man. This is surely true, though anybody who knew him only through his post-match press conferences during his spell as manager of Newcastle would struggle to believe it. When Dalglish entered the pressroom at St James’ Park it felt like you had been sucked into a haunted Romanian cave. Watching him sit down I was reminded not so much of the brilliant forward I had admired as a teenager, but of the Groke from Tove Jansson’s Moomin books - a creature so chilly the ground freezes beneath her whenever she stops moving. Dalglish did not like journalists. And frankly who can blame him. They are always likely to twist your answers, quote you out of context, or compare you to some scary beast from Scandinavian children’s fiction.

On one particular occasion Dalglish was in an even more glacial mood than usual. His Newcastle side had just drawn with a newly promoted Charlton team that had been reduced to ten men for most of the match. Sitting on the podium afterwards the Scot wore an expression so bitter any Frenchman present would have been tempted to squeeze it on his crepes.
 
A senior reporter from County Durham asked the first question. “How disappointed are you with that result, Kenny?

Dalglish offered no response staring straight ahead like a man driving down a long dark tunnel. “How disappointed are you with that result, Kenny?” the reporter asked again, more loudly. Still Dalglish sat in silence.

“Are you going to answer my question?” The reporter shouted.

Dalglish sniffed, cleared his throat and slowly turned to look at him, “I didn’t hear a question,” he said with studied sourness, “I heard a statement”.

The reporter was a pitman's son from round Seaham way. He was big-hearted and generous, but he was not one to take insults lightly. He had once - so it was said - pinned Cambridge United boss John Beck to the wall in this same stadium and berated him about his negative tactics and time-wasting, 'People paid hard-earned money to watch that. You should be bloody ashamed of yourself.'

Now the reporter rose, He sucked in air until his chest swelled.  He cast his eye in the direction of some sycophantic members of the local media, the one's who laughed at the gaffer's every quip and turned on those who questioned him like the bully retinue of a brutal king.

The reporter's lip curled. 'I am not like these poor buggers, reliant on you for my livelihood,' he bellowed, 'I work for the nationals. I have been a journalist for forty years. And you can rest a-bloody-ssured that I know the difference between a statement and a question, and that is a bloody question. How disappointed are you with that result?”

Dalglish's peevish expression did not alter, “You’re trying to trip me up. You say,' How disappointed am I? What if I’m not disappointed at all?”

“Then,” the reporter roared, “Begin your carefully considered response to my inquiry with the words “ Actually I am not in the least bit bloody disappointed”….”

To the outside world this may not seem like much, but I can assure you that when you have heard the Japan manager answer a question about his team’s failure to beat Argentina with the words 'We did not score a goal and in football if you do not score a goal you cannot win the game.' And then listened to it being translated into four different languages, it’s the kind of frenzied excitement that lodges in your mind.


2 comments: