Strong leadership and the ability to deliver a rousing speech are skills that any great political figure should have in their locker. The same goes for great football managers. Here’s 12 managers who like to get political. Which do you think would make good politicians?
Sir Alex Ferguson
Sir Alex Ferguson began his working life as a Glasgow shipyard apprentice and, after getting involved with his trade union, led an unofficial walkout over pay. A life-long supporter of the Labour Party, the ex-Manchester United boss told the New Statesman: “I grew up believing Labour was the party of the working man, and I still believe that.” On the NHS, he says: “All my life I’ve seen Labour as the party working to get better health care for ordinary people, and the Tories only really caring about the people at the top.”
A minute’s silence was held at the Labour Party conference in September 1981 when ardent socialist, Bill Shankly, died. Shankly, arguably Liverpool’s greatest ever manager, once said: “The socialism I believe in is everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life.”
Paolo Di Canio
When Paolo Di Canio became Sunderland manager in March 2013 his political views rather overshadowed the relegation dogfight the club found themselves in. He was accused of being a fascist. As well as showing some admiration for Italy’s former fascist dictator Benito Mussolini, Di Canio gave what appeared to be a fascist salute to the fans of his club Lazio in 2005. He reportedly told an Italian news agency: “I am a fascist, not a racist.” However, he says he was misquoted.
Brian Clough, who won two European Cups as manager of Nottingham Forest, was a passionate socialist. He said: “I think socialism comes from the heart. I think I’ve been lucky and I’ve got what I’ve got. I’ve made a few bob, I’ve had a car, I’ve got a nice house and I don’t see any reason why everybody shouldn’t have that. People who I’ve met sometimes with a few bob and who have got on don’t think everybody else should have a few bob and get on. I think the opposite. I think everybody can have it. And that’s where socialism comes from. I think everybody should have a book, I think everybody should have a nice classroom to go to, I think everybody should have the same opportunities.”
Bayern Munich boss Pep Guardiola, who won the UEFA Champions League twice as manager of Barcelona, has been a vocal supporter of political independence of Catalonia from Spain. “I feel a strong bond to my country, Catalonia,” he once told reporters. “I feel a strong bond to what I feel inside my head and my heart. A country that since 800 years ago has its own language. So one feels this as part of him.”
If we have the likes of Ferguson, Shankly and Clough on the left wing and Di Canio very much on the right, former Newcastle and England manager Kevin Keegan seems to have something of a free role in the middle of the park. The two-time Ballon d’Or winner was famously photographed, alongside ex-Liverpool captain Emlyn Hughes, giving Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher a peck on the cheek on the steps of 10 Downing Street in a publicity stunt for the England football team in 1980. But 15 years later he was playing head tennis with Tony Blair at Labour’s 1995 party conference. He described Mr Blair as a “breath of fresh air” but remained tight-lipped about which way he votes.
Ex-Norwich, Newcastle and Birmingham boss, Chris Hughton, campaigned to end apartheid in South Africa and turned down big money to play in the country in the 1980s. In 1989, he supported Labour Party candidate, Kate Hoey’s bid to become an MP as she fought a by-election. And as a young player at Tottenham Hotspur Hughton wrote a regular column for a newspaper produced by the left wing Worker’s Revolutionary Party. He’s said in interviews since that it was a football column and he “wasn’t really politically involved”. However, he says: “I’ve always had strong views on social issues such as hospitals – I think we should have a good health system – and the education system, too.”
In the 1980s former Hull, Tottenham and Arsenal manager, Terry Neill, became an adviser to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. “Cecil Parkinson who was chairman of the Conservatives was a pal and he introduced me to Maggie,” he told the Daily Mail. “I became a football adviser to her at the height of hooliganism. When I got a call from her at 6am and she said ‘Terrance can you be at Number 10 in an hour?’ I knew it was important.”
Egil Olsen has managed Norway’s national team for more than 13 years over two different spells. But he’s probably better known in England for his short-lived and disastrous spell in charge of Wimbledon for 11 months between 1999 and 2000. The Norwegian, famed for wearing wellington boots on the touchline, also stood out because of his political views. He was a member of the Norwegian Workers’ Communist Party. He was once quoted as telling a critic of his views: “I am not a socialist – I am a communist.”
Former Glasgow Rangers boss Ally McCoist admits that when he was younger, “I just wasn’t that bothered about politics” and “tended to look at the parties and only worry about what they were going to do for me”. But the former Scotland international striker says as he grew older he realised his political allegiances lay with the Labour Party. “You begin to realise that you have to think what is going to be best for everyone in the long run,” he once wrote. “And that is what Labour is all about. Its basic principle has always been to look after others less well-off than yourself and I agree with that.”
The ex-Bradford, Wigan and Ipswich manager is the son of a trade union activist and has a pet tortoise named Trotsky after the Marxist revolutionary. An admirer of the late Labour Party politician, Tony Benn, Jewell has spoken of his dislike for the way some newspapers, like The Sun, portray politicians. In 2007 he told The Mirror: “They wanted him (Benn) to be perceived as a Trotskyite and a Communist and if he got to power, we were all going to be peasants. It wasn’t like that. But why worry about the truth? Let’s just put spin on it. I can’t have spin. It does my head in.”
Before becoming manager of Belgium in 2012, Marc Wilmots went straight into politics after retiring from his playing career. He became an elected politician in his native Belgium in 2003 for the French-speaking liberal party, the Reformist Movement. The ex-Schalke midfielder drew criticism in 2005 after he announced he was taking the unconventional step of retiring as a senator.