Formed in reaction to the Reform Act of 1832, the Club still has very strong links with the Conservative Party. I was there for a small conference and first we gathered at ‘Cads Corner’ where coffee was served. Lunch was very good indeed – the extremely rare beef with whole grain mustard and crystal salt base was absolutely gorgeous. We ate in the MacMillan room, gazed upon by lots of pictures of former Tory Prime Ministers.
I checked the noticeboard and saw William Hague is soon to speak about how Conservative ideas are taking the world by storm. I suspect he won’t mention the role the US Military have in this spreading of such ideas. There’s lots of minor positions for members, which honours an unwritten rule of boys’ clubs that it’s about the ritual, not the content, and so give everyone jobs, regardless of whether the job actually has any role to perform at all.
I looked in vain for the toilet but saw no sign indicating the gents. I was guided there by the porter and realised that the toilet didn’t have a sign indicating gents or ladies; it’s a gentlemen’s club so most toilets are for the chaps, so they don’t need ideograms. There’s only one ladies loo in the place and that’s in the basement, naturally.
I don’t think it’s my scene, but I suspect I’m not theirs.
Office Christmas Meal
It was our ‘team Christmas meal’ last night, in deepest, Burberry Essex. A local Chinese restaurant was suggested. “It’s a decent Chinky.”
We revved up for dinner in a pub I can only describe as shit. Four pint pitchers for a fiver. Old blokes mumbling into them. We stumbled to the restaurant.
Some shaven headed Essex boys sat at the only other occupied table. Chunky gold chains worn outside the shirt. They said knowwhatimean a lot and sent a beer to our table because our conversation was ‘entertaining’. It was a provocative gesture and one I was quite happy to ignore. Unfortunately the others took the bait. The beer was sent back. I didn’t realise at the time, but someone in our group spat in it. This did not go unnoticed on the chunky chain table.
One of my colleagues went to the toilet. Two of the chunky chainers followed him. There was trouble a brewing. By degrees everyone gravitated to the toilets. Amid the squaring up and “You. Outside. Now” talk was the manager of the restaurant; a tiny Chinese guy trying to restore calm. Remarkably, he succeeded. A round of drinks for the lairy chaps was organised. Lager, mostly. “They ain’t wurf it” was the chunky chained conclusion.
And that should have been that. Except, one of my colleagues and his boss were obviously fired up and started at each other. “I’m resigning because you’re a twat.” “Fine, you’re useless anyway.”
Chairs were scraped back. Calm downs were issued. “I’m not having this.” Cash was thrown down onto the table and a hasty exit made. Too hasty in fact as he forgot his bag! The bossman followed him which was a little disappointing as he didn’t come back and he was paying.
The situation this morning is a little tense. To say the least.
Whether it’s a silly season story or not, the credibility of the Woodward to football rumours demonstrates yet another way in which ‘sound business principles’ are making their way into football. The objectification of management – the idea that managing a company involves a set of transferable skills, rather than more specialist industry knowledge – turned from business fad into accepted common sense years ago. It moved into football at the boardroom and executive level, as the idea of a chairman as monied lifelong fan became more diluted.
It was only a matter of time before somebody decided to apply the concept to managing the playing staff: if not Woodward now, then another talented ‘man-manager’ later. It seems apt that it’s Rupert Lowe promoting this idea – his guiding principle seems to be that Southampton be run as a business in more than just the financial sense, that the gap between on-pitch tactics and business strategy is smaller than people think and that a sufficiently talented CEO (i.e. him) is all that’s needed.
You can catch a whiff of objective management in Lowe’s comments in the BBC story. “If we can learn from him about…becoming world-class” – this is management theory in a nutshell, quality as a skill-set to be learned, not from experienced specialists but from Homo Managerius, the businessman for whom success is a golden touch. Management theory sees success as something which can be conferred upon any business by getting the right men at the top: industry knowledge is often seen as a hindrance, a legacy quality that inherently resists change.
It’s interesting that so little of the comment on the Woodward notion asks what the players might think of him. The company I work for has embraced management theory eagerly, importing a strata of ‘business development’ professionals whose lack of interest – or open contempt – for what the firm actually does is barely disguised. The result is a delighted boardroom, happy to be embracing ‘fresh thinking’, and increasing resentment all the way down the rest of the company, where respect for what these people have achieved is turning quickly to frustration. If football is just another business, might the same thing not happen with the Southampton – or England – team?