He might be exaggerating a touch and you might not believe this, but when Mel Sterland says “there were fights every day” in his time at Sheffield Wednesday he’s actually talking about togetherness!
And what he sees as a lack of “fighting spirit” in modern day dressing rooms.
Not that we should expect managers to copy the response of Mick Hennigan, one of Howard Wilkinson’s coaches, to a bout of fisticuffs. “He’d bring the boxing gloves out,” chuckles Mel.
But there is a serious point to this. Some of the biggest claptrap you hear nowadays is about “the character in the team.” It can mean something but is often glib enough to become a cliche. Two other frequent examples of manager-speak are much more accurate.
These are the familiar laments that “it’s too quiet in our dressing room” and “we lack leaders.” It shows on the field, which is why players like Wednesday’s Glenn Loovens and Jose Semedo stand out in that department. But there should be more of them.
Is it the change of culture where, by all accounts in comparison with the past, young footballers are mollycoddled along? Is it the self-preoccupation with smart phones and music on headphones? Whatever, there is a vacancy for the footballer who can see the whole before his part in it.