Smoking Gaffers

In the days before all this newfangled lollipop-sucking and gum-chewing, managers and players weren't bothered about cancer, yellow fingers, and bad breath. They were just worried about where the next packet of Rothman's was coming from. Indeed, it's often rumoured that football managers alone managed to keep British and American Tobacco afloat during the late 70's. But not now. As that bloke Bob Dylan once put it, "the times they are a-changing", and cripes, he was bloody well right ! With the health police banning smoking from almost everywhere except your outside toilet, it's hardly surprising that the football authorities have followed suit and outlawed it from the dug-outs.

Shame really, because you couldn't beat the sight of a nervous manager frantically reaching for his next fag, as his side desperately tried to hold onto their slender lead. Of course some of them, particularly those crazy Latin type gaffers, don't need the excuse of big-match pressure to reach for a packet, they just literally need to reach for a packet. Constantly.

Anyway, here's our top ten nicotine-loving managers...

  • 1 Cesar Luis Menotti The endless TV shots of Menotti furiously lighting one cigarette after another during the 1978 World Cup has to be one of the abiding memories of the tournament. And it didn't seem to do the hosts any harm either - his brilliantly innovative tactics coupled with a team playing their hearts out for him, led to Argentina's first global triumph. An intellectual, left-wing radical, Menotti was known as "El Flaco" (the thin one), most probably because he didn't eat - he just smoked. One of our other top-ten gaffers, Ricardo Lavolpe, was obviously making a mental note for later in life - sat on the bench as reserve goalkeeper, he could only look on in awe as Menotti took chain-smoking to a new level.
  • 2 Ricardo Lavolpe One of the game's most flamboyant characters, Lavolpe's smoking prowess really came to the fore as the manager of Mexico during the 2006 World Cup, when he was warned by FIFA for smoking during their opening game with Iran. Lavolpe was not impressed with the warning though, telling FIFA he'd rather give up football than smoking. He did stop though, and allegedly spent the rest of the tournament tucking into doughnuts instead. But the fags will be back - his reputation is such that Costa Rica once tried to get an injunction preventing him from smoking, claiming the butts would damage their pitch. And whilst Lavolpe openly admits to it being a bad habit, he candidly describes how much he enjoys it, adding that if he was drinking on the job it might affect his managerial skills, but that no-one has been dismissed for being "smoked-out and disorderly"
  • 3 Marcello Lippi Famously pictured chomping on a cigar after winning the 2006 World Cup final, Lippi has smoked regularly since his mid-teens, and whilst the cigarettes may have given way to the cigars, it doesn't seem like he's about to kick the habit any time soon. Before the authorities outlawed smoking in the dugouts, the cigar was as much his visual trademark as the silver hair and the glasses, and Lippi often expressed his surprise when being asked not to smoke at games outside of Italy. Back home he's nicknamed Paul Newman, due to his striking resemblance with the actor. Maybe Groucho Marx would have been more appropriate.
  • 4 Johan Cruyff Maybe its the association with the 70's, the thin wiry build, or maybe even the yellow teeth, but for some reason the Dutch legend just looks like a serial-smoker. He may have appeared a vision of fitness on the pitch, but as soon as he got off it then out came the Rizlas. It's been reported that when he moved to the Washington Diplomats during the height of the NASL's popularity, the Americans were gobsmacked at the sight of their new star regularly sparking up during the half-time interval. Cruyff took his 20 a day prowess into management at Ajax, and then Barcelona. However, a double heart-bypass brought the habit to an immediate end, and when he resumed the managerial reigns at Barca he'd moved onto chain-sucking Chupa Chups lollipops instead. Just before his teeth had chance to rot away and all fall out, he ended his managerial career.
  • 5 Zdenek Zeman The chain-smoking Czech first came to prominence when Italian football was at its most popular on Channel 4 in the 90's, and British viewers could tune in to see the ex-Foggia and Lazio manager demonstrating his extraordinary skill of being able to communicate to his players without apparently opening his mouth, except when withdrawing another cigarette. Zeman looked less like a manager and more like that kid at school who hung around in the shadows, dragging on a crafty roll up and mumbling on about Nick Cave. It would definitely have been worth paying money to tab (tab, geddit ?) in on his team-talks with Gazza.
  • 6 Enzo Bearzot 1n 1982 Bearzot became the 2nd smoking gaffer in succession to guide his country to World Cup glory. But unlike Menotti 4 years previously with his cigarettes, Bearzot did it this time with a trademark pipe dangling from his mouth. The Italian media and fans started to wonder exactly what Bearzot was smoking when he continually named an unfit Paulo Rossi in the opening matches, despite the striker having only just returned from a 2 year suspension for match fixing. Bearzot ignored the criticism and stuck with the player who'd served him well in 1978. The rest is history. Alongside Eric Morecambe, Harold Wilson and, er, Joesph Stalin, "Il Vecio" (old timer) became one of the world's highest profile pipe smokers.
  • 7 Malcolm Allison Ok, so before this top ten becomes entirely the domain of managers involved with the Latin countries, lets quickly introduce Britain's most celebrated smoking gaffer, Malcolm Allison. Big Mal cut an iconic figure in the 70's with his lucky fedora hat, sheepskin jacket and large cigars. And whilst other managers may have smoked to calm their nerves, Big Mal always looked like he smoked because he was rather enjoying it.
  • 8 Michel Decastel The Swiss coach of Qatar side Al Ahli was sent off during a game in September 2006 after firing up a bad boy on the sidelines. The Qatari FA then banned him for a game and handed him a fine.
  • 9 Gianluca Vialli As with the great Ricardo Lavolpe, Vialli admits to the evils of smoking but also claims that it's a healthier alternative to getting drunk every night. Hmmm, an interesting argument. During his playing career 'Luca' was caught several times having a crafty tab after being substituted, indeed its claimed that in the 1990 World Cup he was spotted having a sneaky one sat right next to the bench. With this in mind its hardly surprising that he took his packet of Marlboro Lights into the realm of football management.
  • 10 Sam Allardyce Big Sam always liked a puff on the bench. Ooh pardon !

So their you have it, and whilst our list is dominated by foreign coaches (and we could have had more... Trappatoni, Ancelotti, Cuper, Cosmi etc), lets give a nod to some of the British gaffer's who up until recently tried to keep the tradition alive... Andy King, Steve Paterson, Stan Ternent, John Robertson, John Lambie ...we salute you. (Several people emailed in claiming that Neil Warnock regularly smoked a white owl during his early days at Notts County, but we're not having any of that.)

A couple of other foreign managers who didn't make our top ten still also deserve a mention -

Spain's World Cup coach from the 90's Javier Clemente famously (well, famously in Spain) said that both drinking and smoking could co-exist in the modern game. He'd obviously never seen Gazza and Five Bellies in action.

And finally, during his 4 years in Aberdeen, the cigar-loving Ebbe Skovdahl was memorably described by the Scottish media as "the gloomiest Dane since Hamlet". Having witnessed him coughing and spluttering instructions to his players from the sidelines they eventually re-phrased it to "the gloomiest Dane with a Hamlet". Great stuff.