You snooze, you lose. But managers' sleepless tales set alarms ringing

Tony Pulis is not the only top-flight boss to claim the land of nod is a foreign country – but how do they function on so little sleep?

Easter Monday, and across the nation Britons will rise with smiles on their faces, clear of head and bright of eye, after a fourth successive work-free lie-in. Not, though, in one particular Staffordshire residence, where a grumpy quinquagenarian will slide unrefreshed from his tousled, sweat-stained sheets and prepare for another busy day's frowning and evil glaring.

Tony Pulis, who told the world all about his disrupted sleeping patterns last week, is the man in question. "You wake up some nights thinking about some things you want to do," he explained, speaking of life with a massively management-meddled mind.

"Nobody knows what managers go through in lots of respects," he added. "Your mind is non-stop. It keeps flickering. You just can't switch off."

In some ways Pulis has got it easy. After all, Saturday's visit to Everton was the sum total of his side's long-weekend endeavours, when Easter once saw full league schedules on Friday, Saturday and Monday.

The weary-limbed footballers involved would certainly have had no problems sleeping after those triple-headers, even if they didn't always succeed in keeping the scorelines sensible – precisely 50 years ago, for example, Liverpool thrashed Tottenham 5-2 on Good Friday and were reverse-thrashed 7-2 by the same opponents three days later, squeezing a 1-0 home win against Manchester United in between.

To be fair to the Stoke City manager, we have reached that time in the season when every match carries particularly drastic implications. Not that a night chez Pulis is ever much fun, as Martin O'Neill – who was reminded this weekend how drastic the implications of a bad result can be – testified after a sudden snow-dump forced him into an unscheduled sleepover last October. "Tony's OK, but that length of time with him is too much for me," he concluded.

It's nine years now since Sam Taylor-Wood premiered her 67-minute film of David Beckham snoozing at the National Portrait Gallery. A visual portrait of a sleeping footballer, it was an interesting subversion of a much more common phenomenon: the verbal self-portrait of a non-sleeping manager.

Earlier this year, Arsène Wenger complained that in the modern game "every single moment has to be absolutely public and explained".

"We live in a world where you do not have to come into our sleeping room to know exactly what happens," he opined. And he was absolutely right (about everything except how English-speakers normally refer to the room in which they sleep).

Football managers at the highest level reach their lofty position after years of high-profile overachievement, an experience that seems to leave many of them unburdened by more than the weight of chips on their shoulders and their own hyper-inflated egos.

These are people who might define humility as the reason they get so sweaty on those lucrative close-season visits to Abu Dhabi. Football managers are not in the habit of admitting their imperfections, least of all when journalists are listening. But when it comes to the bedroom they are engaged in a curious race to the bottom.

In this one area of their lives it is not enough simply to fail, they must do so more emphatically than anyone else, and then they must tell us all about it.

In addition to Pulis, in the past few weeks we've learned about the night-time troubles of Roberto Mancini. "If we lose I'll get a few hours of sleep but not much," he said. "For 24 hours I need to understand what's happened."

Harry Redknapp said: "My life's consumed by saving QPR. I am not sleeping at night, my mind's going non-stop", and Gordon Strachan added: "I had maybe three hours' sleep. You have to suffer, it's part of the deal."

Even Sir Alex Ferguson suffers from regular slumber-punctures, admitting that after last December's derby victory "I just couldn't sleep and, at about four o'clock in the morning, I gave up trying and watched a video of the whole game all over again." Not one manager has shared the news of a decent snooze.

Given that the known effects of sleep deprivation include increased anxiety, inferior decision-making and greater inclination towards risk-taking, this isn't a pattern of behaviour that should be encouraged among those required to handle stress, take good decisions and minimise risk.

But the surprising thing is that these men continue to avoid excess anxiety, to come to commendable conclusions and to happily hold off hazard. In other words, they appear to be immune from the scientifically proven effects of the sleeplessness from which they collectively claim to suffer.

Top-level football management cannot possibly be easy. It must take a sharp mind to achieve such success in a viciously contested field. In fact, it would require the kind of highly honed capacity for cunning that would also be needed to invent an utterly irrefutable way of wildly exaggerating the mental toll of the role.

Could these people, so talented at instilling teamwork in others, be showing signs of it themselves? Can it really be true that not one manager enjoys truly silent nights, or are those that do keeping quiet for fear they could end up sleeping only with the fishes?

All things considered, I can't help wondering whether the last thing Pulis will think about tonight, as he tugs the duvet over his shoulders, is pulling the wool over our eyes.

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