The best and worst Premier League managers to spend Christmas day with
Christmas is a time of rest and relaxation
If you're reading those words, you may have let out a bit of a chuckle just now. Not because it is funny, but because even the vague idea of any of us truly relaxing this Christmas, as the world feels like it is both falling apart and closing in around us, is simply laughable.
Brexit negotiations, a new variant of Covid-19, unemployment and poverty rising, people being stranded from their loved ones - all of these various things mean that, for many, this Christmas may be a pretty shitty one.
It is worth remembering in moments like this, however, that it could always be worse. For example, you could be spending Christmas day with a Premier League manager. Yeah, it sounds strange and unlikely, but if 2020 has taught us anything it's that the unexpected is often only around the corner.
So settle in for a few minutes as we go through which managers would be best and which would be worst to spend an entire Christmas day with, just the two of you, all day.
The Liverpool manager arrives in the morning in truly great form. He has some champagne and beers with him, as well as some Christstollen, a traditional type of German fruit bread. As soon as he's in the door he's cracking jokes and pouring drinks. 'Today's going to be decent after all,' you think.
Breakfast goes to plan no problem, but then things take a turn. At about 11 you start making moves to get the dinner on. You don't want it too late, and most of it's prepped already. Jurgen's tone changes.
You've not given him enough time to relax between courses, and he proclaims about how - on every other Christmas day - he was usually given a few hours to properly recuperate after breakfast.
He goes along with your timings, but a snide comment is never far away. Eventually you sit down for dinner at 2pm. The tension is palpable, almost overwhelming, before Jurgen finally erupts - claiming that you must be delighted now because he's got a belly ache, and will be too full for the Christstollen.
After many attempts to reason with him that you gain nothing from his suffering, he claims to have sprained his jaw from excessive chewing and fucks off home without saying thank you.
You are blinded initially, upon opening the door to Brendan Rodgers. His ultra white teeth glimmer with the reflection of the sun, and it takes a moment for your vision to readjust and recognise the enormous silhouette of a square that he has in his hands.
Brendan has brought you a gift. It is extremely large and wrapped in a truly wonderful manner. This has been done by professionals. There is no doubt of that. 'Like the wrapping?' says Brendan. 'Did that myself.' Cool.
You're polite, so you don't want to open the present until after breakfast. But you can very quickly tell that Brendan will not be truly comfortable until you have unwrapped the gift. He remains unequivocally polite, but grows tetchier by the minute.
Breakfast comes and goes, but by the time you settle in to watch the tail end of Up on the telly, the Leicester coach is looking at you with the intensity of a dog desperate to play fetch with the tennis ball at his feet.
'Might open this now actually,' you say, slightly weirded out by his eagerness, as you begin to paw at the wrapping.
'There's a knack to it,' says Brendan, as he assumes control of the unwrapping duties to reveal what was beneath the wrapping paper: a portrait of himself. It's a nice picture, of that you are sure, but you are confused as to why he gave it to you. 'Did that myself,' he says, once again.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer
An interesting day, to say the least. You are alerted to Ole's presence on your property by the unmistakable sound of him singing 'Ole's At The Wheel' at a volume too high for this hour of the day.
He has left his car on the road, insisting that it would be disrespectful to park his car in your driveway, despite your clear insistence that you have loads of space next to your own car.
'Wouldn't dream of it, gaffer,' he says when you press him on it.
Ole's initial help is welcome, as his seemingly mindless seasoning of the eggs results in a flavour sensation that your mouth has never experienced before. It's bewildering, even intoxicating.
You allow him to take similar liberties with the actual dinner, but he makes a holy show of it. The turkey is somehow both overdone and undercooked. The potatoes are burned. The veg is flavourless. Your time spent attempting to eat the meal is accompanied by Solskjaer telling you that 'the fact that we're even here, in a first world country, eating a meal like this. shows you just how well we're doing in the grand scheme of things'. It still tastes shite.
You have fully convinced yourself that you'll never invite him over again until he miraculously produces a desert unlike anything else you've ever tasted. Warm and ice cold all at once. Both crispy and velvet soft. Maybe you'll invite him next year after all.
The smell of cigar smoke fills your nostrils before you even hear Carlo arrive. He bounds through the door without knocking, food and wine cradled in his arms like the baby Jesus himself.
He kisses you on the cheek when he enters the kitchen, before picking up and tasting a sausage straight from the pan.
His impact on the actual making of the dinner is minimal, Carlo mostly stands nearby, drinking red wine and puffing on what appears to be a never ending cigar. But you feel like, with him standing over you, you can produce a meal of better quality. His very presence makes you a better host, even without micromanagement.
By the time it comes for Carlo to leave, you have had a number of epiphanies about the course of your life. You have soft tears of joy pouring down your cheeks. You thank him. He casually taps your face with the palm of his hand as if to say 'You're alright, kid' before whistling on your doorstep and summoning a taxi seemingly out of the blue.
'Spending Christmas in this shithole lol'. This is the caption you read after noticing that you've been tagged in an Instagram post at about 10am. Filled with curiosity and panic, you open Instagram and see that the caption is accompanied by a picture of your house, clearly taken from the footpath outside, uploaded seconds earlier.
You're interrupted by your phone ringing. You answer. It's Jose on FaceTime, explaining that he is at your door. Why couldn't he just knock? He immediately asks for the WiFi password.
He seems very happy to be there, at first anyway. He's jovial, making jokes and showing that classic Jose charm.
Seemingly out of nowhere, his tone changes about a third of the way through the day. There aren't necessarily any complaints, but then again the majority of his time is spent staring at his phone, muttering to himself. When you ask what he's laughing at he almost invariably replies 'Ah, it's something Sacramento sent. You wouldn't get it'.
Jose doesn't get involved in the cooking, but the actual eating of both breakfast and dinner is held up by his insistence on getting what he describes as 'an IG-worthy pic'. This takes several minutes, and hundreds of failed attempts.
You consume the food cold. Jose appears furious that it has grown cold, despite he himself being responsible for this reality. He gets up to leave shortly afterwards, muttering a sly dig about how none of your furniture has the Batman logo on it on his way out.
Ralph enters your house, well-dressed and slightly early. He praises your home, pours you a homemade mimosa as soon as he gets in. You like this guy.
Within minutes he's set your living room on fire, after attempting to light the fire without realising that he had dislodged an accidentally moved a bit of tinsel.
You're furious and are mere minutes away from asking him to please get the fuck out of your house. But you don't. You give him the benefit of the doubt, and when he says he'll make it up to you by cooking the dinner himself, you say 'okay'.
Somehow, what should take more than three hours takes just one. Before you know it, Ralph has transported you to a culinary winter wonderland. The food is impeccable, the presentation to a professional level, the flavours otherworldly.
By the time the evening comes and you sit down on the couch, you have forgotten about the fire. You thank Ralph for coming over and bid him a cheerful farewell.
You've been dreading this day for ages. Not a day has gone by for the past five weeks that you haven't received either a call or a lengthy voice note from Pep discussing how you both might approach this Christmas day.
On the day in question, you're awoken by a call at 5.45am. Pep announces he'll be over in 25 minutes to help with the prep.
He arrives, looking like the Catalan Steve Jobs. He stares intensely into your eyes, probably too intensely, shakes your hand with a grip slightly too tight, and marches into the kitchen. The noise of stainless steel pans clanging fills the house.
By the time you get in there, it's already a mess. Pep has brought his own equipment. Pipettes, syringes, a fucking blow torch. After a further hour of what appear to be science experiments, he relents to your protestations that he is the guest and that you should cook. He says he'll leave you to it, but within minutes of pouring himself a drink and retiring to the living room he's back, arms folded, pacing in the kitchen.
The pressure is unrelenting. He's on your shoulder non-stop, shouting at you, urging you to position the gravy correctly so as to not congest the middle of the plate, until finally the dinner is cooked. Pep puts his arms around you, gripping you and pointing to nothing in particular as you bring his plate to the table.
He takes a bite. Silence. His verdict? He loves it, 'more than you'll ever know'. You know he's lying through his teeth. He leaves in a huff 20 minutes later.
There's a knock at the door. 'Well, I made it here, despite your directions,' says Frank Lampard, greeting you with a laugh. 'But nah, traffic was actually decent,' he adds, his face hardening but maintaining a smile as he pats you on the shoulder.
Frank has agreed to cook for you today, which you are pretty excited about, and has brought his own ingredients. You see him unpack the many Waitrose bags he has brought, and you lose count of the number of times you see the word 'cornfed' on packaging. There's Moet, there's foie gras - Frank spared no expense here, and it's obvious from the get go. This is going to be a feast.
He spends the afternoon in the kitchen, whipping up a storm. The smells linger invitingly in the air, and eventually it's time to eat. You do just that, and you're bowled over. Sophisticated flavour profiles complimented with perfectly paired drinks. This is seriously impressive.
You have a wonderful day and, after Frank reads his favourite verse for Beowulf, you say farewell. Only as he leaves do you begin to ponder: is he really a good cook or is the food just expensive?
You have a good day with Dean Smith, but when you look back at the events of the day, all you can remember is that photo you caught a glimpse of inside his wallet. It was a zoomed in shot of Jack Grealish's calves and now it's all you can think of. The succulent turkey has been replaced in your mind by a cutlet of Grealish's lower leg. It's all you can see now. This is your life for the rest of time.
Your day with David gets off to a weird start immediately. He arrives with that Manchester United mousepad under his arm, and offers it to you before he's even entered the house.
It gets stranger from there, as Moyes - unprompted - explains how different things would've been at Old Trafford had he been able to sign Gareth Bale and Cesc Fabregas, before claiming that - when he was at United - no one really rated Thiago Alcantara that highly anyway.
An unexpected emergency leads to you handing the nearly completed dinner for Moyes to take over and finish. By the time you return, he has burned the meal.
Nuno Espirito Santo
Wearing what appears to be a GestiFute branded tracksuit, Nuno arrives with a clipboard under his arm, adorned with the same logo. He's in jovial form, but also seems strangely interested in how things are going in your professional life.
'Are you happy? Do you think you're being challenged in the way you could be?' he asks. 'Erm, yeah I think so,' you reply, before Nuno stands up, with his clipboard, and proceeds to deliver an hour-long presentation attempting to convince you to join the GestiFute family.
'They give you the tools to be your own boss,' he says repeatedly. After the presentation, you have a thoroughly enjoyable dinner, complimented by the suspiciously low cost Portuguese delicacies Nuno has brought. You bid each other farewell, and you begin packing for your loan move to Famalicao.
Look, we'll level with you. Steve was operating on a reduced budget for the dinner. He had little to spend but did a decent job. Unspectacular, but edible. And enough to go around. He even brought an imitation form of champagne, though it was slightly sullied by the fact that it was served in one of those oversized Sports Direct mugs.
Despite this, it probably even exceeded expectations. Unfortunately, no matter how nice it was, you can't help remembering Rafa's dinner last year. Was it just as plain? Yes. Was it just as unexciting? Yes. Did you prefer it more anyway? Also yes. Good effort Steve. It's not you, it's us.
'What day is this?!' proclaims Roy, bounding through your door without any prior notice of his arrival. 'Why it's Christmas day, Roy,' you reply. At this point Hodgson tries to claim that he was visited in the night by three ghosts of Christmas - past, present and future - and that he had experienced some kind of enlightenment. 'Life is too short for attritional football,' he adds, before immediately turning around and leaving to deliver turkeys and Christmas bonuses to his Palace players.
Marcelo arrives in an unassuming manner, with his socks pulled up over his shins after hitching a lift on the back of a local child's bike. His interpreter arrives, breathless, 15 minutes later.
Despite the two of you only briefly speaking before the day in question, Marcelo is in possession of a folder containing the blueprints of your house, the model numbers and manuals for every kitchen appliance you have, as well as a list of your allergies, oldest friends and insecurities.
This, you think, may explain the guy in the Leeds tracksuit who's been stood behind your hedge intermittently throughout the past week.
Within moments, your kitchen is transformed into a strange world of simultaneous chaos and control, and you experience a bizarre combination of both frenzy and peace of mind. 'Dinner's ready,' says Marcelo's interpreter, after what feels like 10 seconds but was in fact, you find out, several hours of cooking.
Half of the dinner is shite, half of it is amazing. But you don't care. You've had a good time.
This day was a fucking slog. Arteta turns up with Willian, who he insists will stay for the entire dinner. He does just that, sitting there, on his phone, sipping on sherry and not contributing anything. To his credit, Arteta makes the entire dinner, spending a few hours meticulously concocting what appears to be a feast. You can tell he's thought long and hard about this day.
It turns out shite, and you're actually in shock at how bad it is. You ask Mikel, in the most polite way possible, what exactly happened during the cooking process. 'It smelled so promising,' you say.
Immediately defensive, Arteta says that judging by the proportions of seasoning he used, it should have been delicious. In the past, he says, dishes he'd made in a similar way had turned out beautifully.
Things calm down a little bit, before Mikel spots a blob of gravy on the dinner mat near his plate and holds a meeting with you vowing to find and punish whoever is responsible for the leak.
Eventually you convince him it wasn't you.
You're pretty sure you had a nice day with Graham Potter, but in truth it was so uneventful that you literally cannot remember a single particular moment from it.
You hope it won't happen, but it does. From the moment Scott Parker arrives, meticulously dressed in a dark short sleeve shirt worn under a thick, loose-fitting sweater, you hear the backing track of 'Fit but You Know It' under every single word he utters.
It's incredibly distracting, despite your attempts to ignore it and carry on having a normal day with him. It does, however, make Parker's six-minute post-dinner speech a lot more entertaining.
'They're a delicacy,' Sean Dyche says, holding open an enormous Tupperware bowl full of what you know only to be worms. You overlook this, telling him that he can have them, but that you'll stick to what you're making.
If the persistent sight of Dyche slurping up worms like he was a cartoon dog in a Disney movie wasn't off-putting enough, his repeated claims that Christmas is being stolen really seal the deal.
What you are subjected to ends up being five hours of why the past was better, why Christmas is getting soft (apparently receiving a lump of coal and a handful worms builds character in children) and why you should follow a variety of Facebook pages with names like 'Do You Remember?'. You do eventually follow them in a bid to placate him. Over the next week he tags you in approximately fifty posts explaining why life was better when a man delivered fish heads to your front door.
Sam rocks in like a hurricane, the unmistakable stench of stale Bisto humming off him as he brushes you aside at the front door. He arrives in the afternoon, having earlier insisted that he had received breakfast invitations from another two households which he must attend.
You've just served up dinner with all the trimmings. You're actually pretty proud of yourself, before pride is overtaken by an emotion you cannot yet define.
What you witness is like nothing you've ever seen before. Mistaking this dinner, this table full to the brim with rich food, for his starter, Sam proceeds to eat everything in astonishingly quick time. He was moving too quickly for you to be sure, but you're fairly certain you saw him dislocate his jaw, appearing more snake than man.
He takes a brief break to ask for seconds of Bisto - served in a glass, not a gravy boat - before polishing it all off in the blink of an eye. Forever generous, he never fails to pass some food to Sammy Lee, sat faithfully at all times by his feet.
Next thing you know, Sam is asleep on your armchair, belt unbuckled, Sammy on his knee, both fast asleep.
You, too, fall asleep in the end, feet up on the couch. You are awoken at what the clock purports to be 11.35pm, by Big Sam asking where your backup tin of Quality Street is.
An unmitigated disaster, from start to finish.
Arriving at your home, Chris misses your extended hand in an attempt to shake it, before tripping up in your hallway. Flustered, he gets straight to dinner. You watch, curious as to whether this year's dinner lives up to the joys of last year's.
He looks to be doing everything right, but nothing works. Pots and pans get scraped. Utensils fall apart in his hands. Food appears to decompose at his very touch. 'But, this is exactly what I always do, step-by-step. What's happening?' he asks, as you lead him out your front door and into a taxi home.