The Appliance of Science

I think it was a city solicitor with much experience of top English football clubs who recently expressed his frustration at the idiocy of how most of them are run with the phrase “Stupid people I can handle; crooks I can handle; what I can’t stand are stupid people who think they are crooks.”

It was ever thus. Here’s a good dose of stupidity, from Shanks of course:

Shankly, like Ramsey, hovered over his players looking for hints of incapacity. Injury was not so much a problem as an insult to his ambitions, a fact which persuaded him to demand from the Anfield board a new wonder healing machine produced in Germany.

Shankly watched fascinated as the “awesome” piece of medical equipment was unveiled in the treatment room under the supervision of Bob Paisley, who was then known as “Mr Elastoplast” rather than one of the most brilliant managers in the history of the game.

Ian St John, the great striker, recalls every detail as though it happened yesterday. “When Bob took off the wrappings we had to step back. It had a black face and a battery of dials and wires poking out from half a dozen places. Bob was reading a manual of instructions and making all the connections and when he finished he said: ‘Right boys, any of you got a bit of a knock?’ Melia said: ‘Well, Bob, I think I’ve pulled my knee a bit.’

“Bob told him to strip down and then picked up two leads with large pads attached to the ends, wetted the pads and placed them on Melia’s knee. He then picked up another attachment, which looked a bit like a microphone, and said: ‘Right, Jimmy, if you feel anything untoward just give me a shout and I’ll turn it off right away.’ For a little while Bob was twiddling with a knob to no effect and Shanks was becoming very impatient.

“‘Jesus Christ, Bob, I thought you were reading the instructions,’ said Shankly. ‘The instructions are in German, boss,’ he was told. By now Bob had turned all the knobs to maximum force and Melia, reasonably enough, was getting a bit tense. ‘Is it full on now?’ he asked. It was then that Bob noticed he hadn’t turned on the power. When he did Melia’s leg shot up in the air and then jerked back uncontrollably. Those of us who weren’t bent double with laughter, screamed for the machine to be turned off.”

That, also, for the good old days of good old common sense. Faith in witchdoctors is eternal.

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3 responses to “The Appliance of Science

  1. Simon Kuper in last week’s Weekend FT attributed the quote to a friend who tried to do some business with clubs (http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/04836f82-4d24-11dc-a51d-0000779fd2ac.html). Someone I know who works in the City said that as businesses they basically play by none of the rules that other firms appear bound by.

  2. That’s right! I knew I’d seen the quotation somewhere reputable recently, but I’m not a regular FT reader and forgot it had been Simon K. Thanks!

  3. Someone I know who works in the City said that as businesses they basically play by none of the rules that other firms appear bound by

    this was true before the Sports Direct flotation but now there is one other company that appears to manage itself by football standards.

    Kuper’s article is great. The one thing I’d add is that a lot of the problem is the same one you see in academia – the stakes are too small. Even Man U has turnover of barely £200m, and that number drops off precipitously as you go even half a dozen places down the league. There are a lot of car dealerships which have bigger turnover, bigger profits and more value on the balance sheet than most Premiership clubs.