Belfast Telegraph

Sacking of Louis Van Gaal shows football really is a funny old game ... but it is not life as we know it

By Lindy McDowell

Football - it's another planet isn't it? Not just a different world from ours. A whole other universe. This week's headlines from Manchester are a case in point. A middle-aged man gets dumped, very publicly, very humiliatingly from the day job despite his recent success in silverware production.

One story is (and who knows what to believe here?) that his replacement has for some months been paid an eye-watering fee by the man's employer to hang around waiting until the job becomes free.

It's not something that is likely to happen in your workplace or mine. The employment tribunal might have something to say about it.

In the world of football though, it is all perfectly above board and indeed, as far as the world of football ever can be, normal.

Louis Van Gaal's replacement calls himself The Special One. But in this game of managerial thrones even a Special One can, very quickly, be seen as really nothing all that special.

Witness poor Louis now out on his ear ...

I really do feel sorry for the man. But when I say "poor Louis" he is, of course, anything but. The last couple of days may have been pretty mortifying for him. But the "we're having to let you go" blow will have been cushioned by that multi-million pound farewell package that workers can only fantasise about in the real world.

The money sloshing around Planet Football is famously astronomical. The team Louis leaves are collectively paid more than the UK currently contributes in foreign aid to many a Third World nation.

Footballers entertain, yes. And they have talent and skill, undoubtedly. It goes without saying that in pay packet terms, they will say they're worth it.

And granted it can be an uncertain, cut-throat world where one day you're in the team and next day you're on the transfer list to Nowhere United.

But little wonder why down the years so many young lads have yearned for the chance to share in just a little of the fame, the riches, the glory.

Generally the slings and arrows of outrageous dismissal or savage media criticism are seen as something that just goes with the job.

Van Gaal, tellingly, did his own image no favours some months back when he gave that cringey interview where he wittered on about the impact negative Press comment was having on his home life.

Big wuss? Let's just say it wasn't regarded as terribly football.

But a glimpse of what might be to come?

In the same week that Van Gaal's departure has been making headlines another story has sparked some considerable disbelief - and mirth.

A primary school in England has banned teachers from using a whistle in the playground because it is seen (or heard) as too aggressive. A whistle!

This compares to the school in Scotland which has banned children from playing footie unless they agree to a "no chasing" clause.

And when this cotton-wool-wrapped generation gets to third level education? Then it will be all trigger warnings and safe spaces. Don't expose the little dears to anything that might upset them.

But the real world we are preparing them for is nowhere near as gentle, fluffy and considerate as such whistle-free, safe-space cocoon.

If only ...

As this week's brutally public dispatch of Mr Van Gaal reminds us, even in the gilded galaxy of football, even with stellar financial reward, even on fabulous Planet Football, sometimes in life comes a kick in the offside area.

We do the young no favours trying to pretend it will be otherwise.

The name is Minister ... Justice Minister

Actor Daniel Craig has apparently signalled that he is no longer interested in the role of saving civilisation on celluloid in his current incarnation as James Bond.

By interesting coincidence this news comes as a vacancy arises in our own backyard. We need a new Justice Minister. At least we do at the time of writing.

By the time you read this a deal may have been done. Failing that, 007 with his particular set of skills must surely be worth a shout. A little less conversation, a little more action? Besides they've asked everybody else...

Nature studies here just got dangerous

It's a jungle out there as it's revealed that in Northern Ireland people are, quite legally, keeping as pets (possibly in a backyard near you) two tigers, numerous snakes, several monkeys, one cheetah, a wolf, various breeds of raccoon and a Gila monster. Whatever that is.

And that's not even the scariest.

In Lanarkshire somebody is keeping alligators and crocodiles. How do you keep a crocodile?

Where do you keep a crocodile? Why would you even want to keep a crocodile?

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