Look at any professional football manager when they’re on the touchline and you’ll see they have a variety of ways to cope with the stresses and strains of the modern day game. While some of them like to sit on the bench with a stone-faced, Easter Island-type of expression on their faces, others opt to parade up and down their technical area hurling a line of insults at the fourth official.
One or two even like to play a type of shadow football, in which they kick every ball as the game progresses, and even try to head an imaginary ball every now and then. There are also several others who do their best to keep Wrigley’s in business by chewing a pound or two of gum during the ninety minutes. These lip-smacking legends deserve to be applauded for their efforts.
Here are four of the very best:
Sir Alex Ferguson
Without doubt the daddy of them all, the Manchester United boss has chewed his way through a block of gum the size of Dimitar Berbatov in his 24 years at Old Trafford. He favours small bites, rather similar to the way a mouse would eat a slice of pizza, and he is polite enough to keep his mouth closed throughout most of the match.
Having overseen the likes of David Beckham, Eric Cantona and Wayne Rooney for over 1,300 matches, Ferguson has been a chewer at virtually every one. The old boy may be 69, but it’s estimated that his jaw muscles are like those of a teenager. If they introduce gum-chewing in the 2012 Olympics, you know where to put your money.
Big Sam favours big gum, and can usually be seen placing a golf ball-sized lump in his mouth as the game kicks off. Sadly, and bizarrely, dismissed by Blackburn’s new owners, it looks like he’ll be on the dole rather than on the gum for a little while. But when he returns, the makers of Hubba Bubba had better be ready.
Sam has an extravagant chewing action, keeping his mouth open and his jaw-line constantly on the move. To the untrained eye, he actually looks as though he’s trying to eat a piece of toffee while wearing someone else’s false teeth. If you want to know what Sam’s tonsils look like, just keep watching, you’ll soon see.
More of a subtle chewer than an avid cruncher, Stuart Pearce often looks more like an agoraphobic waiting nervously for a lift home. As a player, he was as tough as teak and would eat wingers from breakfast, but as a manager he sometimes has the appearance of a turkey salesman in January.
His chewing gum is often dissected by tiny bites from his front teeth, rather than any grand destruction from the back molars. Like Sir Alex, Psycho’s mouth remains closed throughout the process, and his impassive stare gives little away. The England Under-21 manager, surely boss of the full team one day, may be a-chewing for many years to come.
In the 1970s, when Fabio Capello was plying his trade as an attacking midfielder with Roma and Juventus, manufacturers of chewing gum gave away football player cards, with a picture of a player on one side and a short biography on the other. Along the lines of ‘Joe Bloggs, striker, born in Leicester, likes Slade, The Sweeney and Vesta Chow Mein’.
These days, Fabio Capello seems to be on a mission to get through so much gum that he finally manages to find his own card. The Italian’s mouth seems to be constantly on the go, furiously chewing in an up and down motion like a greased cheetah on a trampoline.
When he finally finds his own card, I wonder if it will say ‘likes The Rubettes, The Old Grey Whistle Test and losing meekly to Germany in World Cup matches’.