By Lee Gale
The Non-League Paper, 2004
“Arrghh! Armed raiders steal masterpiece” it reads on the front page of The Mirror. The theft of The Scream from Oslo’s Edvard Munch Gallery is big news, but Interpol should look no further than the kitchen of John Gorman. On a sheet of A4 the former assistant manager of the England national side is reproducing his own version of the painting from the picture on the front of his newspaper – in fact, as we’re shown around his 15th-century cottage, we see that Gorman’s house is full of his artwork, from humorous caricatures of famous footballers to simple village vistas.
The expression of the howling figure in Munch’s nicked painting is an accurate depiction of the way Gorman is feeling at the moment. Apart from scouting duties for Charlton Athletic, he’s not worked in football since being caretaker manager at Wycombe Wanderers last season prior to Tony Adams being handed a permanent position. Keen to get back into full-time coaching, Gorman is tempted to dip his toes into lower League and Non-League football.
“It’s very frustrating,” he tells us, sitting down for a cup of tea at his kitchen table. “I’m an experienced coach. I’ve been through it all. I’m a better manager than I’ve ever been, and would be a good manager if I was given the chance again.
“I don’t like saying I’d be interested in the job of a manager who’s already there. I’ve never been that type and I never will.
“But at the same time, I have to realise that I need to work. If a job came up, it would be nice for people to give you consideration because here’s a guy with a lot of experience.”
When discussing Gorman, inevitably the name Glenn Hoddle will crop up. The Scotsman has been assistant to Hoddle at Swindon, Southampton and Tottenham, as well as with England. Gorman thinks he’s being overlooked for League Two and Non-League jobs because of his high-level football past.
“Obviously if a job with Glenn came up, I’d be delighted to go with him, and that’s going to be a job at a top club, isn’t it?” Gorman explains. “But, I need to work. I need to for my family and for financial reasons if I’m being honest.
“I was watching Dannie Bullman at Stevenage Borough and Aldershot’s Darren Barnard the other night, and I have to say there’s not a lot of difference between the Conference and the Third – Dannie could be playing in the League, and Barnard’s an international player.
“It’s funny, you see teams in the League, you look at them, they’re struggling for finances, struggling getting players and everything, whereas teams out of the League seem better managed. They’re more determined to get in the League, and there seems to be a bit more ambition about them, doesn’t there? Especially when you see teams who have dropped out of the League, who have been League teams.”
To supporters of the Conference’s biggest-ever side, Carlisle United, Gorman is something of a folk hero. The Foxes’s old number three was part of the squad that gained promotion to the First Division in 1974, and he still looks out for United’s results.
“We were top of the League for six games. For six games!” Gorman says with pride. “We started the season off with three wins, two draws, then we started to go on a losing streak.
“Something like Carlisle never leaves you, you know. You’ve been there and you’ve made history. The stuff we achieved when I was there was incredible, and I see them now and I just want them to do well again. It’s not hoping they don’t do as well as we did, it’s the opposite. I want them back up there.”
Despite Carlisle’s promotion-form run towards the end of last season, the club couldn’t accrue enough points to avoid relegation. Gorman was quick to phone up Brunton Park to tell player-manager Paul Simpson he’d done a great job since arriving in August 2003.
“I was really disappointed for them to go down. And it’s not going to be easy for them to come back up. I think going into the Conference gives them a chance to go back to the basics. Let’s build again, because for me, Carlisle should be a good Second Division team, touching into the First.”
Given the chance of coaching at a Non-League club, Gorman would surely bring a touch of finesse to any team’s playing style. Plus, he’s the positive type. Players at Wycombe last season went on record to say that Gorman brought some self-belief back to the squad.
“My way is, regardless of where you are in the league pyramid, if you encourage players at what they’re good at, then you get the best out of them,” he says.
“Keep it on the deck and play. You know, no matter what level – I watched the Aldershot and Stevenage game: when it was on the ground it was actually quite good to watch. But when it’s just humped up there, I mean, that’s how people used to look at the Non-League, didn’t they?
“At all levels, I’d say the same thing to players, ‘Go out and express yourselves.’ I’m not worried about the mistakes. At the highest level players make mistakes, and maybe that’s a fault of me, but if a defender’s got the ball, I don’t want him just to smash it up the pitch, I want them to think. I do want them to clear their lines if it’s the right thing to do, but I reckon coaches, and I’ve been under a lot of coaches now, they put too much fear into players.”
Gorman brings out a few of his old Carlisle United programmes from the glory days of the Seventies. Crikey, that Carlisle shirt must have chafed. Gorman says the club’s fans will be looking to emulate the success of ex-Conference side Doncaster who now reside in League One. In Simpson, he believes they certainly have the right manager.
With time to kill Gorman goes back to his Edvard Munch sketch, which is nicely taking shape now. And hopefully soon, the only scream we’ll be hearing from Gorman will be from the touchline.