Call it Machiavellian mind games, ‘spin’ or just plain cobblers but the art of manipulating football expectations appears to be reaching new heights of excellence.
Some colour their rhetoric with wax crayons, others paint with broad, but more subtle brushstrokes.
But there are those so masterful in the multi-dimensional art of ‘the message’ they could hold their own in the cut-throat court of any medieval monarch.
Niccolo Machiavelli - no he’s not on loan at Sunderland - wrote The Prince exactly 500 years ago as a guide to those in power on how to survive and stay on top. It’s been used for good and evil ever since.
But many of today’s managers could teach Macca a thing or two about the dark arts of control.
The arguments may come and go but the principle and purpose remain constant - gain advantage over your opponent.
Say what you need to to stay on top mentally.
Right now in the Premier League, following Jose and Manuel’s recent verbal clash, we have the horses, little horses and little rich horses of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City.
We have the highly fancied Liverpool and the good outsiders of Tottenham and Everton.
Manchester United’s stable of thoroughbred course and distance winners appear to have wandered off like bewildered seaside donkeys.
But they all have spin for every occasion.
When a team starts to score goals, play glorious, exciting football and look as though it has a great chance of winning the league/promotion/Cheltenham Gold Cup, the manager will say: “We can’t win the league, we’re not ready for that yet”.
Like Brendan Rogers after Liverpool’s 5-1 destruction of Arsenal. Like Jose Mourinho after Chelsea beat Manchester City.
When the wheels come off, the team is sliding down the table and all looks bleak, the manger will say: “We can still finish fourth”: like David Moyes on any number of occasions this season.
Everyone from Nigel Clough and Stuart Gray to Mourinho and his current sparring partner Manuel Pellegrini talks about ‘keeping their feet on the ground ‘ when winning, and the lofty heights of what they can achieve when they’re clearly struggling.
Keep spinning the yarns lads, we love it.
Perception, image and message are all.
To quote Macca again: “Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are.”
Actually we do, but we just love to hear it anyway.