Could Professor Jonathan Van-Tam make it as a football manager? We asked the professionals

Could Professor Jonathan Van-Tam make it as a football manager? We asked the professionals

The government’s approach to the coronavirus crisis hasn’t been universally liked.

While many would agree that lockdowns are needed to prevent the spread of the virus, some would argue that they go on to long and deprive the public of much-needed social interactions.

It’s almost as if their divisive tactics don’t quite chime with everyone and you end up with a vocal minority calling for certain figures to walk because of their decisions.

In many ways, Covid has been like a dour football season but with much more sombre consequences. There hasn’t been much to shout about if you are one of the little guys and all the success has gone straight to those at the top with all the cash. Essentially, more than half of the world has been relegated and a rich minority have made it into the Champions League.

However, with the rollout of the vaccine things are starting to look up and everyone is gearing up for the start of the new campaign which will begin in earnest on 21 June. Warming yourself up for that big return to the office or trying to keep up your drinking stamina at the pub is definitely in the back of everyone’s minds right now but “we don’t let this slip”. Remaining cautious and vigilant about the threat of Covid remains of the utmost importance but convincing everyone of that is easier said than done.

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One person who has realised this is professor Jonathan Van-Tam. England’s deputy chief medic, who is an expert in antiviral drugs and pandemic preparedness, has been on our television screens for the best part of the past year and has won many fans for his offbeat approach to explaining things to the public.

A particular niche that Van-Tam has tapped into explaining how to control the virus as if it were a football match. In recent months he’s talked about how Covid has been like a game of two halves in that “the away team gave us an absolute battering” but it’s now the 70th minute and the home side have scored an equaliser but the key part is to “not to throw it away at this point because we’ve got a point on the board, and we’ve got the draw”.

In this week’s coronavirus press conference Van-Tam expressed a further knowledge of football tactics claiming that although the strikers often take all the glory it is the defenders and defensive midfielders that do a lot of the hard work.

He’s not exactly Pep Guardiola or Gary Neville on Monday Night Football but he seems to know a bit more about football than your average bloke in the pub.

This got us thinking: Van-Tam is clearly a clever man, seems to know a bit about football, is comfortable talking to the press and wears ties that make him look like the manager of Hull City. With all this in mind, could Johnathan Van-Tam make it as a football manager?

It’s a bizarre question that we probably didn’t think we’d be asking 12 months into the pandemic but here we are. Indy100 asked three football journalists their thoughts on the matter and here are the results.

Hush Kerai, Sky Sports

“Here’s a man who clearly understands what it takes to be successful in the English game. This guy knows what it’s all about.

Carra and Nev will tell you, you can’t carry passengers at this level, everyone, like Van Tam keeps saying, simply has to track back. You have to *want it* more than the opposition. It’s all about running around lots.

JVT speaks well and for me, he tells it like it is. Relatable to the every-man. Think Nigel Pearson meets Chris Wilder.

And with a name like Jonathan Van Tam, the headlines will write themselves too.”

Muhammad Butt, Squawka

“His obsession with tracking back makes it clear that he’s the manager you bring in to avoid relegation. Five points from 15 games? Get Dr. Van-Tam in!

He’d keep you up for sure, but then sign a bunch of players that don’t fit and without the fiery spectre of relegation to motivate everyone would just wind his players up with an overly defensive approach.

Basically a bald, not corrupt Big Sam.”

Adam Hurrey, The Athletic

“We are so used to ham-fisted footballing analogies from government officials (‘we’re showing the red card’ to this, so-and-so has scored an ‘own goal’) over the years that, frankly, it’s a relief to see someone taking this seriously.

“Van-Tam’s admirable refusal to admit he may have jumped the shark with his footballing analogies is perhaps part of the appeal.

“But I also love the variation in his attempts to bridge the gap between epidemiology and what I imagine he probably calls ‘the beautiful game’: the nation could probably get its head around the idea of a team coming from 1-0 down and looking for a late winner or the tension of having the advantage in a penalty shootout, but when Van-Tam got all tactical with his defensive midfielders and their relentless pressing, that’s when I fear he may have lost the purists.

“Still, seems like a very nice bloke and I’m glad he’s in at least partial control of public health information.”

So there you go and it would appear that the verdict is still out on Van-Tam and his football prowess. He seems to know what to do to get the points on the board but could he take a team to exhilarating new heights? The jury is out and the only way we are ever likely to find this out is to run a simulation on Football Manager but surely we don’t have time for that ... do we?

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