Perhaps there could be a fit and proper managers' test to discover if a candidate's views were to the right of Mussolini
To the list of Questions You Can Ask In Drink But Not In Columns, let us add: "I wonder which other football managers are basically fascist?"
Whether they'd self-identify, in the manner in which Sunderland Duce Paolo Di Canio appeared to some years ago, is highly unlikely. But instinct suggests one or two probably hold such lively views on immigration and gender roles and so on that their doctrinal co-ordinates would place them somewhere right of Mussolini. And that's before we've started on a wider catchment that would include pundits and players and even – say it ain't so! – a few sports hacks.
The difficulty, of course, is establishing these things to the irksome standard of proof required to discredit someone in public life. Who knows what Mr Name Redacted really thinks about Indo-European superiority in the privacy of his own games room/golf club/branch meeting of the Premier League subversives club? Yet judging from the Di Canio furore – a row with such full-spectrum dominance that Iain Duncan Smith's slightly more historic and radical attempts at national rejuvenation barely got a look in earlier this week – a manager's political credo is the hot-button concern for football right now.
Yet Mr Di Canio spent his first press conference at Sunderland declining to clarify whether or not he thought Genghis Khan a bleeding heart who would never have fancied it on the proverbial wet Wednesday (I paraphrase slightly). He simply refused to be drawn – and of course, there is no mechanism for compelling him to do so.
Once again, football on these shores is forced to confront the inadequacies of its vetting system, which is apparently unable to keep pace with the cavalcade of grotesques that are drawn to it. After all, how many times have we had cause to bemoan the so-called fit and proper persons test for club owners, concocted in a more innocent age – 2004 – when the men who invented the modern game hadn't foreseen that it would soon need to include questions like: "Are you a former prime minister accused of human rights abuses?", or "Do you have one of those 'Weirdo Special' beards that should instantly disqualify you from owning a sporting concern in Tampa, let alone Greater Manchester?"
Clearly, in an ideal world, we'd have the Premier League's Un-English Activities Committee, formed to investigate allegations of behaviour likely to destabilise The Greatest League in the World TM.
In the meantime, perhaps managers, before their appointment wasratified, could be required to submit to a fit and proper managers' test, along the lines of the Political Compass or the Nolan Chart. You may well be familiar with such typologies, which seek to offer a more nuanced picture than the old "left wing" or "right wing" classifications, encouraging you to respond to a series of statements by ticking either Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree or Strongly Agree.
These statements are things like "Markets should be entirely free" and "People with serious inheritable disabilities should not be allowed to reproduce", and you should ideally answer them as swiftly and instinctively as possible. Your answers are used to plot you on a two-dimensional grid, for example one with an x axis running from left to right, and a y axis running from statism to libertarianism. Sometimes the creators will have plotted well-known figures according to opinions they voiced in their own lives, so you can see whether you're more of an arse than Ayn Rand or whoever.
As for our Managerial Compass, permit me to get the ball rolling with the first slew of statements against which potential coaches might distinguish themselves. Remember, gentlemen, it's Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, or Strongly Disagree.
(i) The only social responsibility of a football club should be to deliver profit to its owners.
(ii) Even if the necessary cryogenic and reanimative advances were made, it wouldn't be OK for Augusto Pinochet to manage a Premier League side.
(iii) But it would be OK for him to manage a League One and League Two side.
(iv) Cheating is sometimes justified.
(v) Racism is the same as saying Jimmy Hill has a big chin.
(vi) The manager picks the team.
(vii) The enemy of Alex Ferguson is my friend.
(viii) Good managers sometimes have to physically discipline their players .
(ix) Football clubs require regulation.
(x) Alan Shearer is a good use of public money.
(xi) A footballer is not a commodity to be bought or sold.
(xii) I'm fine with them, but I wouldn't want to shower with them.
(xiii) Controlling players is more important than listening to them.
(xiv) It matters more when there's money on it.
Those, of course, are just to start us off – you are urged and implored to draft many additional statements via which a manager's belief system might be teased out. The more questions that can be asked of would-be coaches, the more accurately we will be able to determine precisely what sort of person they are, and the less likely we are to harbour individuals who fall short of the gold standard to which the league so earnestly aspires. The floor, my ducks, is yours.