During the 2008/09 season, a craze emerged among managers for describing upcoming opponents, who had been in poor form, as a 'wounded animal', and predicting that they 'would make someone pay' for their recent struggles. This strategem covers a manager's arse in the event of defeat by a side that has previously not scored a goal since 1996.
Like stating that the next opponent is in a false position, labelling them as a 'wounded animal' allows a wily manager to claim the coveted status of underdog, even if it is clear that his side should be favourites to win:
Interviewer: So, you must be confident of beating Stoke, as they've lost 61 consecutive away games?
Manager: Actually, that's the most dangerous time to meet a side, when they've not won in 61. They'll be a wounded animal. They've got something to prove.
While languishing bottom of the table before Christmas, Juande Ramos's Tottenham side was described as a 'wounded animal' every single week by prospective opponents.
Mind-games expert Phil Brown, manager of Hull, stated in a press conference that the struggling Spurs outfit 'have been playing so badly, they're almost certain to beat us', and predicted that 'as a wounded animal, I should expect them to score ten or more'. Hull won 1-0.
Campaign To Be Underdog
This 'wounded animal' tactic belongs to a long tradition of managers trying to make their team out to be underdogs, even when there is clear evidence to the contrary. Similar pieces of rhetoric include:
-Stating that a team hopelessly adrift at the bottom of the league 'have nothing to lose now, which makes them dangerous', or 'are playing for pride, which makes them dangerous', or 'are really shit, which makes them dangerous'
-Claiming that it is 'more difficult to play against ten men', after the other side has a player sent off, and then if necessary 'it's tricky to play against nine men', and 'eight can be a real hassle'
-Warning that one's side is 'often most vulnerable' right after scoring. Taking this to its logical conclusion, Blackburn Rovers boss Sam Allardyce could be seen kicking the bench in despair after his side scored two quick goals against Fulham in February 2009. Pitchside cameras picked him up saying 'fuck it, now we're so vulnerable' to baffled assistant Neil McDonald.
Wounded Animals Likened To Football Teams
As the football world has compared teams more and more to animals, there are signs of the natural world returning the compliment.
When London Zoo's ring-tailed lemur, Francis, caught its foot in a fence and required extensive stitches, zookeeper Joe Alton commented: 'he's a bit like Charlton Athletic at the moment'.
Naturalists observing animal behaviour on the Serengetti have reported that after overpowering a gazelle, lions - rather than devouring their prey, as per the traditional law of the jungle - will these days often circle it nervously, wary of going down to a shock 3-1 defeat.