The best, worst and most unusual dressing room team-talks: Featuring Sir Alex Ferguson, Neil Warnock and Phil Brown

by Timothy Ellis / 31 March 2020, 11:10

Earlier in the season a fascinating video of Jesse Marsch went viral.

The compelling clip showed the passionate RB Salzburg manager conducting his half-time team-talk at Anfield, during which he used a curious volley of Panzer strength German, American-English colloquialisms and the odd expletive.

At the time his troops were 3-1 down to Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool, but to their credit the inspired Austrian side then clawed their way back level after the break, only to be edged out 4-3 by the defending European champions, in what was a breathtaking exhibition of Champions League football.

The clip gave football fans a rare insight into what happens in that often elusive 15 minute period. So with that in mind, Timothy Ellis has whipped out the managerial microscope and looked at 10 of the best, worst and most unusual dressing room team-talks...

Sven Goran-Eriksson sounds flat against Brazilian flair

Current England boss Gareth Southgate famously alluded to Sven’s management style at half-time in the 2002 World Cup quarter-final defeat to Brazil: "We were expecting Winston Churchill and instead we got Iain Duncan Smith."  

Sven, in his inimitable and measured style, took eight years to reply: "I gave a normal team-talk," he told The Times. "If Southgate was disappointed he was not playing, perhaps he wouldn't remember it well. When we defeated Germany 5-1, I was not Winston Churchill then, either.” 

Toulouse manager feels amour in victory 

In 2016, Pascal Dupraz's emotional speech moved some of his Toulouse players to tears, as he showed them video messages of support from their loved ones as the club battled for survival.

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Neil Warnock delivers the GOAT of half-time team-talks

"I have realised I am not the only one that loves you,” he emoted, Hollywood style.

“They (the coaching staff) are reserved. They do not want to tell you. They love you. At the end of the game you will be heroes, and you will be responsible for keeping the club in Ligue 1."

The schmaltzy script worked wonders as Toulouse twice came from behind against Augiers to save themselves from relegation on the last day of the season.

Phil Brown sits his naughty boys down

Phil Brown’s half-time talk on the pitch at Man City on Boxing Day 2008, when his Hull City charges were losing 4-0, has gone down in football folklore. “The team felt disrespected, didn’t feel appreciated,” George Boateng remembers. 

“It did affect the team. We didn’t feel like we deserved to be treated like that. We were treated like a bunch of kids.”

Brown’s take was more brutal: "I thought it was nice and cold and I thought I would keep the boys alive because they looked as if they were dead.”

By the time he was sacked by Chairman Adam Pearson in March 2010, Brown had fallen out with so many first-team players that locals joked about the need for a naughty step at the training ground. 

Meanwhile, the infamous talk did later inspire this gem from Jimmy Bullard...

Ashley Young replaces Jose Mourinho and gatecrashes the noisy neighbours’ party 

When Man Utd came to the Etihad in April 2018, a whole 16 points behind Pep Guardiola’s new model army, a Man City victory was required to take the title and ensure noisy neighbour bragging rights. 

At 2-0 down, United were the gooseberries ready for a total squashing.

Step forward Ashley Young, who found his inner Roy Keane in the dressing room: “The City fans are shouting ‘Olé’ and they’re embarrassing us. Are we going to stand for that? Remember your responsibilities to the fans and the badge. Show some pride and fight for each other.” 

A Paul Pogba-led fightback ensued as United snatched an incredible 3-2 win to prevent blue hands on the Premier League title for another day. Jose Mourinho was respectful though: “My objective here was to get points and not spoil any celebrations. The point is can we improve enough to catch them next season?" Pass….

John Sitton sacks one of his own defenders on the spot

John Sitton was always a straight-talking maverick, which bode well for some TV entertainment, if not his overall career, when Channel 4 documented Leyton Orient’s ups-and-downs during the ill-fated 1994/95 season.

A goal down to Big Sam’s Blackpool, the co-manager sacked defender Terry Howard at half-time. Exasperated by the full-back’s apparent refuelling habits, the boss gave him a fortnight's notice in the dressing room. 

For good measure, Sitton’s expletive ridden rant at Barry Lakin and Mark Warren was the TV moment that made Joe Kinnear look like a CBeebies bed time story-teller.

In his own book, Howard wrote that the on-the-spot dismissal was the turning point for Sitton’s Orient career; as the fans turned against him, the club’s form plummeted and eventually relegation ensued. He still called him a “terrific coach” although it turned out to be Sitton’s first and last stint in the dugout.

Fergie chooses harmony over hair dryer

In 2001, the defending Premier League Champions trudged off the pitch at White Hart Lane 3-0 down, decimated by the home side’s five-man midfield, spearheaded by Teddy Sheringham and Les Ferdinand in attack.

The out-of-sorts Man Utd players may have felt that their ears were about to be singed by Scottish fire, but Sir Alex Ferguson instead took the softly softly approach. 

“Right, I’ll tell you what we’re going to do. We’re going to score the first goal in this second half and see where it takes us. We get at them right away, and we get the first goal.

"Teddy [Sheringham, the former United striker] was the Tottenham captain and, as the teams emerged back into the corridor, I saw Teddy stop and say: ‘Now, don’t let them get an early goal.’ We scored in the first minute."

United then went on to score four more to win 5-3, and leave Spurs absolutely crestfallen. “It was terrible because at half-time we thought we were one of the best teams in the league and by full time we felt like one of the worst. It should never have happened,” Gus Poyet later revealed.

Jose Mourinho leaves the speech to the masseur

As the 2013/14 Premier League title race was entering the final few months, Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea travelled to the Etihad to face Man City.

No motivational talk was needed from the Special One as team masseur and long-standing Chelsea servant Billy McCulloch took care of that, even if it was in cryptic Scottish.

Mourinho insisted: “The last time I spoke to them was at lunchtime. It was Billy's team talk, I'm telling you.

“He was screaming so much in his Scottish accent, going grrr, grrr, grrr, that I didn't understand, but the players were clapping so they must have got it! Billy was fantastic, I didn't understand, but it looks like the players did.”

Chelsea won 1-0 to move level on points with City, who had previously been unbeaten at home all season.

Real Mallorca boss goes one step too far in 18 rated season 

Louis Van Gaal once insisted his Man Utd players must be “horny”, but former Real Mallorca manager Joaquin Caparros took this idea even further before a crucial La Liga game with Athletic Bilbao back in the 2012/13 season.

“In the team talk ahead of the game Caparros showed us a video with images from a porn film,” revealed former Mallorca defender Anderson Conceição. “He told us: ‘On the pitch, you need to play as hard as this guy,’ and he pointed at the screen.”

Unfortunately, the technique did not have the desired effect, however, as Mallorca lost the game 1-0, and were subsequently relegated from La Liga.

Rene Meulensteen talks to the animals at Brondby

​Former Man Utd coach and Fulham manager Rene Meulensteen delivered a literally roaring speech before a UEFA Cup first-leg match against Eintracht Frankfurt in 2006 when he was at Brondby. 

The Dutchman told captain, Per Nielsen: "OK, Per, what animal are you today?" 

Nielsen suggested a snake. There then followed a team-talk about the need for giraffes, tigers and foxes to take the opposition down in the jungle out there. Unfortunately, Brondby lost 4-0 and ended the match with nine men. Or animals.

Neil Warnock delivers the most incredible team-talk of all time

And finally, the GOAT of managerial team-talks: Neil Warnock.

This absolute classic needs no introduction...

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Nigel Clough
Nigel Clough
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18th May
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