The best and worst Premier League managers to spend Christmas day with
Christmas is a time of rest and relaxation - or at least it was
Last Christmas was a piss-take. Covid-19 left us stranded from our loved ones, leaving many of us alone to watch in horror at how Boris Johnson and his band of dislikable failsons and daughters fuck up our lives with a mix of incompetence and malevolence.
A year on and we're back in the same situation. This time it's the omicron variant, rather than delta, but for many Christmas Day 2021 will be annoyingly similar to last year's.
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 2021 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.
'I would rather have eaten this over one course instead of two,' he says through gnarled, pristine teeth.
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 like a Jack Russell waiting for its owner to pick up the ball that they've placed upon their lap.
'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.
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.
'No sauces. No coitus,' that is what the note left in front of your door a week before Christmas day says.
You flip the note to see an exhaustive list of conditions which must be met for Antonio Conte to turn up at your house seven days later. You meet said conditions, and make Conte aware of it.
Expecting him to arrive on Christmas morning, you are surprised to see a tent pitch up in your back garden three days early. Too afraid to ask this firebrand what he's doing, instead you watch him curiously, witnessing him measure different areas of the garden, while taking photographs and writing notes.
'This isn't good enough.' These are the words greeting you when you look out the window at 7am on the big day, burned into the grass in your back garden.
When you go downstairs, Conte is already there, bating the turkey and making Steven Bergwijn do sprints around your kitchen for some reason. Exactly what transpires over the next eight hours is anyone's guess. All you know is that you are well-fed, exhausted and somehow in the best shape of your life.
A terrifying, beautiful experience.
You want to dislike this dinner. You want to think that Gerrard maybe isn't quite ready to cook a full three-course meal in a kitchen he's never cooked in before. But it goes perfectly. Everything is delicious, everything is ready earlier than intended.
Damn, this guy really knows what he's doing.
Eddie Howe arrives around midday, accompanied for some reason by Amanda Staveley and two burly security guards. He gets to work early, while Staveley talks ambitiously about how this will be the best Christmas dinner you've ever had.
It's only when you actually take the time to look that you notice that every bit of food he has brought is already gone off, stinking up your kitchen. He insists it's not an issue, and that he's the man to turn this into a delicious meal.
The two security guards stand over proceedings at all times, occasionally taking quiet instructions from Staveley, checking the perimeter for breaches, and handing Howe kitchen utensils from a large duffel bag.
In Howe's defence, he does the best job he can. The food is of course disgusting, but it at least looks semi-decent.
Your prevailing memory is almost shitting yourself at the giant saw being taken out of the bag and handed to Howe. Turns out it's just a carving knife. You live to see another day.
Just outrageously good. You have no bad things to say about this. Thomas arrives early, with little fuss and zero entourage.
He is exceedingly friendly and his conversations astoundingly interesting; ranging from smalltalk about the joys and annoyances of Christmas, before seamlessly switching to a discussion on the climate crisis. By the end of it, you feel like Tuchel might be the only person to save us.
He may not, but he fed you well, and entertained you. That's really all you can ask for.
Boos greet Benitez as he arrives at your home. You don't know where they're coming from.
He talks the talk, and is undoubtedly a lovely man, but all the charm in the world cannot hide the fact that this man has arrived at your house and served you a literal plate of gruel. A slow, painful day is broken up only by the sight of Jordan Pickford diving through your living room window to catch a ball.
Is literally in the door five minutes before leaving and being replaced by Quique Sanches Flores.
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. He's not even Grealish's manager anymore. This is your life for the rest of time.
You're not looking forward this one, and you've felt like that for fucking ages. The last time Moyes popped over it was an unmitigated disaster. Burned potatoes, undercooked Yorkshire pudding, a memorably. bad attempt at one of those hybrid tur-duck-en things, all followed by a rather pathetic admittance that he 'must improve in a number of areas, including preparation, flavour combinations and general cooking'.
It's because of this memory that you are so shocked by what you witness this day.
'Who is this Adonis?' you ask yourself - after feeling a sudden and unexplained urge to open the front door, before even hearing the bell ring.
This is the same physical vessel that ruined your day before, but the aura is something entirely different. Calm, confident, radiating with satisfaction and health, he ruffles your hair and gives you a bear hug - he's tested negative earlier that morning, don't worry - before walking through your hallway like he owns it.
All in all, you have a cracking day. The food is functional but delicious, Declan Rice even pops in for an impromptu rendition of 'Rice, Rice, Baby'.
Then, over a glass of sherry by the fire, Moyesy starts talking about how the true diversity in sport is allowing vaccine sceptic players to choose whether they protect themselves from a virus which has brought the world to a halt.
You were so fucking close David, get out.
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, in all honesty. You've had good dinners and bad dinners in the past, but never have you had one so wildly inconsistent.
Head-to-toe in ZARA Men, Arteta looks the part when he comes in, holding a large recipe book that has 'MIKEL' scrawled across it. You notice that he has attempted and failed to Tipex out 'PEP' from the cover. You don't say anything.
The first course - bacalao al pil pil, a traditional Basque seafood dish - is a triumph. You're happy, Mikel is happy - this day is going to be a cracker. You lavish praise on him, unknowingly feeding his ego to the point that just before the main course, he awards you the Arsenal captaincy.
'But I'm not a footballer,' you say. It doesn't matter.
'You are my captain,' he says.
Things go downhill very quickly. Arteta's insistence on cooking a giant turkey rather than the traditional Catalan roast chicken ends in a mostly frozen bird with burned skin, and lukewarm pine nuts, apricots and raisins in the middle.
Immediately defensive, Arteta says that judging by the temperatures and 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 vegetable that was not included in his recipe on the kitchen counter and holds a meeting with you vowing to find and punish whoever is responsible for the leak.
You try to convince him it wasn't you, but despite your best efforts, he strips you of the captaincy and fines you £1 million pound. You are ruined. Fuck this.
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 apart from his rather fetching beard.
'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.
And an honourable mention to...
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.