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Thursday, 26 July, 2001, 11:50 GMT 12:50 UK
Football's strain game
John Aldridge felt the stress and strain at Tranmere
John Aldridge felt the stress and strain at Tranmere
BBC Sport Online chief football writer Phil McNulty looks at the strains of management after former Tranmere boss John Aldridge confessed it brought him to the brink of mental collapse.

John Aldridge is the latest football manager to reveal how he was broken by the pain and strain of life at the game's sharp end.

Aldridge walked out on Tranmere Rovers in April after six years in charge - and only a season after leading the Prenton Park side to The Worthington Cup Final at Wembley.

He made the decision in the desperate hope that a fresh approach would halt Tranmere's slide towards the Second Division.

It was also a decision he made for his own health, as he admitted he was fighting his own battle for mental and physical survival as the stress mounted.

Dalglish quits Liverpool
Dalglish quits Liverpool
He said: "I wasn't feeling too good. I was mentally and physically drained. I'd lost my character. I'm a bubbly person who likes to have a laugh, but it all got far too serious."

And Joan, Aldridge's wife of 21 years, admitted she spent more time watching her stressed out husband prowl the Prenton Park touchline rather than the action on the field.

She said: "I was terrified John was going to have a heart attack. I knew the pressure was getting to him. He'd come home and he wouldn't speak. He was looking so ill."

Aldridge is restored to full health after his temporary exile, aided by fishing, tennis lessons and time spent in a local gym.

It is an echo of other managers who have succumbed to the pressures of trying to produce successful football teams for demanding audiences.

I wasn't feeling too good - I was mentally and physically drained and I'd lost my character
John Aldridge
Aldridge's former Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish is the most famous example of a hugely successful and battle-hardened boss quitting his job because of stress.

Dalglish stunned the football world when he quit Liverpool in February 1991, with his side flying high in the top flight and seemingly at the peak of his career.

He feared for his health, but it was arguably his willingness to help others in distress that led to his own problems.

Dalglish was deeply affected by the Hillsborough tragedy that claimed the lives of 96 Liverpool fans in 1989.

He attended many funerals, his presence providing a comfort for grieving relatives.

Dalglish and his wife Marina also acted as unofficial counsellors for supporters, so it was no surprise that the strain of this period, combined with the stresses of management at the highest level, eventually took its toll on a man who forged a close bond with The Kop.

He eventually returned, batteries recharged, at Blackburn Rovers and brought the title to Ewood Park in 1995 before becoming Director of Football.

Dalglish had another spell in management at Newcastle United, but was sacked after leading them to the FA Cup Final and into the Champions League.

He is currently out of the game after leaving Celtic in the wake of a turbulent spell at Parkhead as Director of Football.

Keegan is back
Keegan is back
Former England coach Kevin Keegan was succeeded by Dalglish at Newcastle - as at Liverpool when one famous Anfield number seven replaced another.

Keegan walked into St James's Park in a blaze of glory in 1992 and took the club into the Premier League on the back of some of the most exciting football and players the club had seen.

Keegan was devastated when Newcastle lost a 12-point lead in the title race in 1996, and despite spending a then British record 15m on Alan Shearer, he walked away in January 1997.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have suffered for some time from huge pressure I have imposed upon myself
Steve Coppell leaving Manchester City
He returned at Fulham, winning promotion again before taking up his ill-fated challenge with England.

Keegan is now back in management at Manchester City, hoping to make a better job of coping with the Maine Road expectation than his former England colleague Steve Coppell.

Coppell is possibly the most bizarre example of a manager suddenly being overtaken by pressure - within 33 days of taking over.

He arrived at Maine Road with high hopes, but suddenly found himself unable to cope with life at Manchester City.

Coppell quit City
Coppell quit City
Coppell said at the time: "I'm not ashamed to admit that I have suffered for some time from huge pressure I have imposed upon myself, and since my appointment this has completely overwhelmed me to such an extent that I cannot function in the job the way I would like to.

"As this situation is affecting my well-being, I have asked Francis Lee to relieve me of my obligation to manage the club on medical advice.

"I am therefore resigning for personal reasons. I'm extremely embarrassed by the situation and I would like to apologise first and foremost to Francis Lee and his board, who have done everything in their power to help me."

Coppell returned for two further spells at Crystal Palace - but his City departure gave an insight into the pressures at all levels of life in football management.

See also:

19 Mar 01 |  Football Focus
Time was up for Aldo
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