I was on the train back to London from watching the Liverpool v Arsenal match at Anfield in January when I saw this guy in full Borrusia Dortmund regalia. I couldn't resist asking him questions at Euston Rail Station as I was curious why he was coming back from that match wearing the jersey of a 3rd team.
He spoke not a word of English, he was German and obviously came on a pilgrimage to Anfield to watch Jurgen Klopp. I thought that was staggering although I had noticed this Bed & Breakfast Guest House a few metres from the Away end at Anfield advertising the availability of German breakfast "We now serve German Breakfast" the sign said :) Jurgen Klopp - boosting the economy of Germany & Liverpool at the same time.
These two events gave me the motivation for today's write up. It made me wonder what turns managers into cult figures. On the field success? Personality? Looks? Combination of all 3?
I suspect managers like Guardiola have attracted erstwhile Barcelona fans to support Bayern Munich. As he combines a lot of those factors - boyish good looks, passionate especially with his touch line demonstrations, successful as a player and now as a manager. A degree of steel and at the same time generosity of spirit and some manners / respect.
I wonder if Jose attracted some Chelsea fans to Inter Milan or from the latter to Real Madrid? I will imagine Jose will have a huge cult following but it is not something that appears to be a topic attracting huge mention in traditional or social media.
Sir Alex traversed football and had lots of ardent admirers beyond sports. I am not however sure if Sir Alex had a cult following beyond the Old Trafford faithful amongst traditional football nations and I exclude the USA from that list. I can imagine Paolo Di Canio (nutters always have a following) and Slaven Bilic (decent player, decent footballer, plays a musical instrument decently) have a following. I think this managerial cult following thing is perhaps a modern invention.
Is Arsene Wenger a cult figure though? I remember regular visits to The Emirates in the 2007 / 2008. Arsenal had not won the league or a trophy or a few years but the 'Arsene love - in' was still in full flow. "Arsene Arsene give us a wave" was the song from all around the stadium and Arsene duly obliged with a wave. Today, the tone has changed. Wengerout is the song on social media. The banners have appeared at some Arsenal matches.
When Wenger arrived at Arsenal, it was a different world from the one we live in today. I doubt if any of the greasy spoon establishments around Highbury amended their menu to include any French cuisine. I wonder if any of the Grampus 8 football fans made the journey over from Japan to watch Le Prof. Also I doubt if Wenger is the type to attract a cult following like Klopp. From what I read about him, I think he will be deeply embarrassed to learn he has a cult following.
Notwithstanding the man's self effacing attempts, it is true that he is loved by many especially for his achievements with Arsenal. He is also loved by many for changing the culture of the club and placing the club on a firm financial footing. Some also genuinely believe that he is good enough to remain as the Arsenal manager into the future.
I am of the opinion that the time for a discussion on Arsene's future or the next club manager is in the close season. Not before. We can have side chats about which manager we want to see managing our club next, I think that is a legitimate topic of discussion for a club has been managed by the same person for almost 2 decades but that future should be for the next season or beyond and not the current one.
Thinking forward into the future, I wonder if some Arsenal fans will decide to go and watch Monaco or Sevilla or Lisbon if Wenger decides that is his next stop. I think I will as I quite like the man and will love to combine a European trip to watch him again, to see how his team set up differs from the Arsenal he used to lead to see if his mannerisms are still the same or just for nostalgia.