About twenty-some years ago (it’s actually painful to write that sentence) whilst I was working in the Parks Department, I bunked off work one day and nipped into the city centre to have some lunch and to pick something up.
I had taken a change of clothes with me, so I looked like “a civilian” as I went about my business.
I was coming out of my lunch place when I actually walked right into one of the supervisors from my yard, in town on a day off.
We said a brief hello to one another and I walked swiftly on, jumped a bus back to my work area, got changed back into the work gear and returned to the yard at the end of the day, basically waiting for the inevitable hammer to fall. I was sitting with the boys when the on-duty supervisor came in and asked me to follow him over to the office.
My big mate, who had heard about my earlier escapade, was grim faced as I shrugged and walked out of the room. “This is it, then,” I thought. “Written warning coming up at the very least.” As we walked, my supervisor turned to me and said “This is just about the stores; we’ve lost a machine and we’re just talking to everyone who’s used it recently.”
Well, I have never felt such a wave of relief in my life, but it was a cold sort of relief, because I knew I wasn’t out of the woods yet but that I had just looked over the cliff.
As it turned out, the supervisor I bumped into in town was off the rest of the week, and if he ever mentioned it to the others in the office none of them ever mentioned it to me.
My big mate was pissing himself laughing as I told him what had happened. He said the look on my face had been a picture; I daresay it was.
Because of that experience, I understood some of what Ryan McGowan must have felt on a 16-hour flight sitting beside a stonily silent Ange Postecoglou after he and other young players had once registered a bunch of hotel room service items to the senior squad account. When the boss came and sat beside him he must have thought “Uh-oh, I’m caught …”
And the silence from Ange, as though he were waiting for McGowan to spontaneously confess, must have been even worse.
Had my boss said nothing to me on that walk across the yard, would I have felt the need to blurt out something daft? Perhaps. I like to think, to this day, that even then I had more savvy than that, but you just never know.
McGowan stayed quiet. But so did the boss. For the full trip.
At the end of it, Ange just got up and left him sitting there, a trembling mess.
It wasn’t until this year when he heard a podcast and Ange confessed that he would often do that to young players to scare the bejesus out of them that he realised that it was the boss’s sense of humour at play. In hindsight that’s actually pretty funny, but it wouldn’t have been funny for McGowan at the time!
Ange is some man. That’s exactly the kind of thing you can imagine him doing, and I am sure that I’d have felt equally freaked out. It proves too that the best managers are great at managing men; they know that you don’t have to raise your voice to make a point, that silence is just as effective a weapon and that you should keep people on their toes.
It’s a great little story that tells you so much about the big man, from his mischievous sense of humour to the respect he holds amongst his charges. He is the real deal. He is a class act.
But I would not have wanted to be in the airplane seat beside him!