Howard Wilkinson
Howard Wilkinson

As a purveyor of football nonsense, Wilko specialises in David Brent-like homespun philosophy, mathematical mastery, self delusion, and the simply bizarre.


Elucidating on his playing staff at the Stadium of Light, Wilko threw us this pearl of wisdom –

“Our squad looks good on paper. But paper teams win paper cups”

The Sunderland months will also be remembered for an insight into the complex world of recruitment – one that surely has found its way into business text books everywhere:

“If you hire people who are smarter than you, maybe you are showing that you are a little bit smarter than them.”

Ricky Gervais was no doubt tied up for weeks in negotiations with Wilko’s people trying to buy the rights to using the line in the US version of The Office.

The Numbers game:

With the Mackems languishing at the foot of the table, Wilko was famously asked by Garth Crooks on Football Focus whether he felt there are three worse teams in the Premiership than Sunderland. Wilko’s reply was masterly:

“I’m not concerned if we are one of the three worst, I want us to be the fourth-best down there.”

Leaving Sunderland, Wilko was rightly proud of easily achieving his goal.

In fairness to the lad, he eventually insisted on adding a sums module to one of those courses of his. The improvement was immediate:

“I’m a firm believer that if the other side scores first you have to score twice to win.”

Self Delusion:

“I would say relegation is three from four because we are already out of it in my mind. When I look at our fixtures, thankfully they are against teams around us which makes them better fixtures. I believe we are going to get out of it and I am not too bothered who else is going to get out of it. I don’t have to think about what relegation would mean to this club because I have been in the business a long time.”

Howard showing that he was from the “ignore it and it’ll go away” school of football management. Howard ignored the relegation dogfight and Sunderland went away.

After just a few weeks at Sunderland, it appears that Wilko had something of an epiphany:

“Jesus Christ couldn’t come in here with a system that would cure the way we have been playing.”

Especially as the Good Lord himself doesn’t have the coaching badges.

Eventually it all became too much for Howard.

“It’s like trying to push custard up a hill!”

The Bizarre:

After a depressing 4-1 drubbing by Spurs and a memorably bad-tempered press conference, an under the weather Wilko admitted it’s

“…not easy to sit here with a temperature and a thumping head and be belle of the ball and play the tambourine.”

Yorkshire balls are obviously unusual affairs.

There would, however, be no cover-up. Or something…

“We are not putting our cape over the tunnel; we are putting our cape in the tunnel.”

The real benefit of Wilko’s qualifications can be seen with his colourful analyis of other great figures in the game:

“Zinedine Zidane could be a champion sumo wrestler. He can run like a crab or a gazelle.”

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