For what we are about to receive

Posted by Simon Curtis

Dear Manuel,

It is apt in these situations to welcome the new incumbent to the hottest of English football hotseats with a few mots justes. Unfortunately, as the lady that usually does this quite adequately is on holiday this week, spare week in our Mal's trailer at Prestatyn came up at the last minute, so it has befallen me to carry out the heavy task. The words in this case may start to become a little unjuste, but nevertheless, you will find they are sent from the heart, which is all that matters.

So, welcome it is.

Do not think, first of all, that the sun that encouraged the buttons of your shirt to relax a little during your interview yesterday is always with us. This is not Valparaiso promenade after all. Sometimes there is a glint off the Irwell, but normally just from a fractured mirror or the front half of a car. There was a riot of pastel-coloured shirts and casual jeans on your inception to our little den, but you must never forget that normally jeans are to be worn with a simple (waterproof) jacket in Manchester and that's it. The word casual in these parts has a variety of connotations but never let yourself think it means cardigans with golf patterns or thin fabric light pink jumpers draped around the neck, Amalfi Martini Lord style. Neither are any of the hats that your predecessor wore allowed. Hoods are ok but hats are a little bit Tony Pulis.

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So to the nitty gritty. What to expect of us all, the great swathe of blue-clad assistant managers that you will become aware of within about fifteen seconds of your first match in charge. We will help you with shouts of "get rid" and "man on" and our tactical knowledge at free-kicks and corners is almost unparalleled. Technical terms from "the big bugger at the back post" and "leather it" will often be heard.

We have seen that, done the other and argued vehemently that the third thing should not in fact have been allowed to happen. The referee is almost always someone who has crossed us at one time or another and we will have special technical words for him as soon as kick-off has occurred. If you require our assistance with goal celebrations, we are quite good at pitch invasions, group hugs and shouting until our eyeballs drop out. If some of us seem occasionally to be pointing in the wrong direction, that's ok, we reposition ourselves with surprising fleet of foot considering the vast amounts of liquid sloshing around inside. We never miss any of the action, unless the bars have opened unexpectedly.

The big fella behind you with gravy on his chin is Dave and the smaller man with the bottle of gin in his coat pocket calling Alexander Kolarov nasty names is Martin. The big lass is Sarah and we are well aware that the kids should know better than to do things like that in public. In all cases bear in mind that our bark is worse than our bite, certain well-known local sorts excepted. In general we will bow to your superior knowledge, but don't expect us to sit on our hands if you take David Silva off and replace him with Scott Sinclair, however tricky the new tactical conundrum is about to be. Also, when United come to town, expect us to morph into a huge bubbling mass of bug-eyed screamers as soon as the whistle toots.

Please also note The Stockport Massif is a mountain chain in Cheshire that our local rivals sometimes go hiking in on bank holidays. Our previous manager occasionally took his bicycle there but had someone else clean it afterwards.

We have been brought up on a strict tactical diet of long diagonal balls into the North Stand, overcooked chicken tiki-taka, enormous dilly-dallying in possession, historically inept own goals and a swathe of badly mishit free kicks from presentable distance. Only in recent times have we learned to appreciate the beauty of a five-nil drubbing of Aston Villa or what it feels like to be the best team in Manchester. If we are honest with you, these things are still very much a novelty for most of us and, although the bravado is always at Empire State heights and the clucking and tutting can be deafening at times, we are often extremely pleased with very small beer and are at our best when something unexpectedly embarrassing has happened to stop us in our tracks. It is sometimes said that we deal with failure a little better than we deal with success, but you should feel more than free to put us to the test on this one.

Be aware that we are a fair-minded bunch, often moved to direct songs of praise at opponents' players who we admire, such as Phil Jones, who is a bit like Juan Roman Riquelme, if you've not seen him yet.

You should, while there is a little time, acquaint yourself with certain important characters from the club's past. For every Colin Bell goal ghosted in from midfield, it is important you sit through a set of Ged Brannan sideways midfield passes slotted into the first row of the crowd. For every beautifully crafted left foot advance from Nellie Young, you should hear the first hand tales of how Ken McNaught's attempted clearance under pressure at Grimsby hospitalised three home fans at the same time. For every Kinkladze pirouette that you find on You Tube, please make sure that you view the video entitled Niel Heaney's Devestating Party Tricks Down The Left. Be aware also that we are steeped in Francis Lee pot shots, but also Lee Bradbury haymakers and that the little man in the boat at Shrewsbury never forgave us for Trevor Morley banging the ball in the river seven times in the same game.

Although we are relatively easy to please, be aware that standards are rising gently in the right direction. Penalties now hit the target more often than not, last minute winners go in at the right end and loss of possession these days is a temporary miscalculation rather than a farewell party. We like pretty football, we like goals smashed in from acute angles and lobbed over the stranded keeper from the half way line, we like our heroes hewn from the same ordinary stone we come from ourselves: honest, fallible and a little bit cheeky. This has been the home of Stan Bowles, Tony Coleman, Buzzer, Bobby Mac, Gerry Gow and Signor Balotelli, don't forget, and not one of them left the building without the sound of a standing ovation ringing in their ears. You too will hear plenty of clapping, plenty of laughing and encouragement, plenty of lusty shouting and barely corked enthusiasm. We should have a badly scanned song up and running for you soon enough too, don't think you can avoid that. "He comes from Chlie-ee-ee," may sound a little staid, but we have a long and succulent history of hitting just the right musical notes in this part of the country, Mick Hucknall notwithstanding.

You may have heard that we got on royally with the last fella in the job and we'll get on fine with you too I reckon. Not many folk from Chile have passed through here but you're one of us now, so make the most of it, give it your best shot and we'll be with you every inch of the way, our kid. Oh and one last thing: don't forget to have Isco sent up with your bags when they come.

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