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Sunday, 13 January, 2002, 17:07 GMT
The heart of the matter
BBC Sport Online's John May reveals the results of a frightening experiment among top-flight managers.

Dave Bassett and Sam Allardyce have shown that managers literally put their heart and soul into one of the most stressful occupations around.

Leicester City manager Bassett and Bolton Wanderers boss Allardyce took part in an experiment that showed managers put their lives at risk.

The pair were wired up to heart monitors for a television documentary, and the evidence produced was frightening.

At times within the tense relegation struggle between Bolton and Leicester, which ended 2-2, both came dangerously close to suffering severe heart problems.

The match saw Bolton reduced to nine men in the first 20 minutes when Leicester went 2-0 up.

Foxes' Muzzy Izzet was then sent off and in a tense and dramatic finale, Bolton scored in injury time to salvage a 2-2 draw.


The bottom line is that week-in, week-out these guys could be putting their hearts on the line
Dr Dorian Dugmore

During the match, Allardyce's blood pressure and heart rate hit potentially dangerous levels.

At one point, his heart rate reached 160 beats per minute, four times his normal resting pulse.

Bassett's results were just as disturbing.

His blood pressure peaked at 190mmHg, he also suffered irregular heartbeat as the game reached a climax and his heart rate topped out at 120bpm.

The experiement was carried out by leading heart specialist Dr Dorian Dugmore for the Tonight With Trevor McDonald programme.

He said: "The bottom line is that week-in, week-out these guys could be putting their hearts on the line.

"Getting your heart rate going at these sort of levels would normally only happen if you had done a vigorous work-out in the gym.

Graph shows Sam Allardyce's heart-rate (blue) and blood pressure (red)
Sam Allardyce's heart-rate (blue) and blood pressure (red)

"These managers are reaching those levels simply through watching a match.

There could be a serious risk involved and the result could be a heart attack, a cardiac arrest or severe angina.

"It's far more dangerous when stress causes the response because the adrenaline tends to narrow the arteries and that could contribute to risk of heart disease.

"Your heart needs to be fit to withstand those surges of pressure.

"Many managers are former players and if they don't take care of themselves, they will be at significant risk."

Bassett told BBC Sport Online: "It was a very interesting experiment.

"The results were half what I thought. But I enjoy what I do and, to me, it's worth the risk.


There are dangers that because managers are so consumed with their work, they don't look after themselves
LMA chief executive John Barnwell

"It's how you feel yourself, and I feel fine.

"Obviously, if a doctor tells you to give up smoking or you die, you give it up.

"If I didn't feel right and somebody told me it was affecting my health, I would have to take that into account."

Allardyce said: "Programmes like this do make us more aware that we should look after ourselves a lot better.

"But it's easier said than done with the stresses of the job."

The intense strain placed on managers were brought to light by Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier's recent problems.

He underwent 11 hours of life-saving surgery after he was taken ill during Liverpool's Premiership clash with Leeds at Anfield last October.

But Houllier is just the latest in a line of managers who have suffered heart problems.

Blackburn manager Graeme Souness underwent by-pass surgery, Luton boss Joe Kinnear suffered a heart attack before a Wimbledon game in 1999, and Peterborough manager Barry Fry has also experienced a heart attack.

Graph shows Dave Bassett's heart-rate (blue) and blood pressure (red)
Dave Bassett's heart-rate (blue) and blood pressure (red)

Chief Executive of the League Managers' Association John Barnwell said the results only underlined the enormous strain that managers operate under.

He said: "The intensity is enormous, and it has grown.

"What has escalated in football management is the intensity of the job, which is claustrophobic.

"It's with you seven days a week and there are dangers in that because they are so consumed with their work, they don't look after themselves.

Perhaps the most chilling reminder of the stresses and strains that managers undergo was that of Jock Stein.

The much-loved Celtic and Scotland manager collapsed and died from a heart attack on the final whistle of a World Cup qualifying match against Wales at Ninian Park in 1985.

Stein's death might have served as a sombre reminder for managers.

But as the cost of success and failure continues to rise, the experiment undertaken by Bassett and Allardyce starkly demonstrates that another manager could pay the ultimate price.

See also:

16 Oct 01 |  Football
Managers face stress test
14 Oct 01 |  Eng Prem
Premiership pressure cooker
13 Oct 01 |  Liverpool
Houllier in hospital
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