Understanding Glenn Tamplin
The Bostik (Isthmian) League Premier Division table has looked increasingly delightful over recent weeks, as big-spending Billericay Town’s league form has disintegrated (check here for further details)
When I wished Dulwich Hamlet fans “good luck in the play-offs” on New Years’ Day, just before they thumped my team Kingstonian 4-0, I wasn’t dismissing their chances of winning the title but assuming that Billericay would not blow their considerable league lead, thereby blowing the semi-warped mind of their vulgar, narcissistic owner/manager Glenn Tamplin.
I was saddened by Ricay’s loss to Leiston on 17th February, as until then, Ks’ opening day win at The New Lodge was Ricay’s only league defeat. Now, however, Hamlet could clinch the title on 26th April, when they play Ks. It would be Ks’ second consecutive year as title party hosts, after Havant’s championship-clinching 0-0 draw at Kingsmeadow last May. And the prospect of Billericay imploding sufficiently to give Dulwich a sniff of this year’s title with two games left is…delicious.
Where Billericay were once at or near the table-top with games-in-hand-a-plenty, those games in hand have now been played and, as I type, Ricay lead Dulwich by a mere three points with eight games left. And Ricay’s five points from a possible nine this week against mid-table and lower mid-table opposition is not championship form.
Before Tuesday’s home game with Tonbridge Angels, Tamplin answered those asking why Ricay’s collapse is so popular with a “Billericay Town TV’ 15-minute YouTube video entitled “Glenn Tamplin, Understanding Me.” And “understanding” Tamplin isn’t easy, especially when he ‘explains’ that “me saying that I’m going to step down, then stepping down and stepping back in and stepping back…and now stepping back down again is what this interview’s about.”
As the BBC’s Richard Conway tweeted: “This is…this is quite something…a Chris Morris production” (‘The Day Today,’ ‘Brass Eye,’ etc…), which he ends up “wholly convinced” is “an elaborate spoof. No other explanation possible.” And Conway has in-depth interviewed disgraced gnomic Swiss ex-Fifa president Sepp Blatter. So, he knows EVERYthing about self-loving loonball football interviewees.
Even for Tamplin, this quarter-hour is chock-full of egomaniacal, contradictory codswallop, with a predictably high codswallop-to-sentence ratio. “I am a humble man,” he says, late in the interview, which…well…erm…
Tamplin’s oratorical ‘style’ reveals what Donald Trump would sound like if he was from Essex?’ Last February, in the Guardian, comedian Frankie Boyle likened Trump’s oratory to “delivering a live feed of his internal monologue.” Tamplin’s, too. At one point, he even has to ask: “what was the actual question again, because I’m going a little bit off the scope here?”
Framing the video as a straight-up interview fools no-one. The questions are transparently read out and do not seem news to Tamplin. And gaps in the flow of the video suggest Tamplin frequently fails to get his answers “right” first time. Even this editorial process, however, can’t mask his constant contradictions and confused thinking.
Wearied US journalists often say “there’s always a tweet” when Trump embarks on his regular twitter storms, a reference to the invariable existence of a past tweet from businessman Trump directly at odds with whatever President Trump twitter-storms about. Tamplin manages these juxtapositions within sentences. “I’m going to blame myself but really it’s a mixture of everything,” he concludes, after promising that “I’m going to take it on the chin and say it’s me” that had “changed” to cause the club’s change in fortunes.
Tamplin also takes responsibility for the currently-appalling New Lodge pitch on someone else’s chin: “I got let down by a groundsman partly, I got let down by the drainage and what we thought would happen hasn’t happened.” More blame attached to the nasty drainage than to whoever hired the groundsman.
And there’s more: “Being really honest, the amount of games we’ve had to play a week hasn’t helped us. Having to change formats, having to change players, having to change venues” (Ricay have played recent ‘home’ games at Aveley). “Not being able to train for four weeks was a big factor because we had three or four games a week.”
Satirising Tamplin is easy, of course, which of itself is no reason not to. Comedian Simon Munnery’s ‘Alan Parker, Urban Warrior’ character was surely meant as a wild caricature of Trotskyists but was actually acute observational comedy. Tamplin is similarly a wild caricature of “Essex wide boy” made flesh.
However, while his opening gambit is: “This interview is purely for the fans. I really don’t care a monkeys about the haters” (his collective noun for “the people who go against me,” he demonstrably cares a whole wilderness of monkeys about them. And here, briefly, he deserves some empathy.
He declares: “I’m a human being. The stick I get hurts. I’ve had difficulties this year and I’ve had counselling over them and I’ve had to deal with them because of what I’ve gone through with the club.” And you can almost taste his neediness when he implores fans to “please come and say hello, please keep letting me sign your programmes, please have your photos done and please keep loving me like I love you and this club.”
This is a timely reminder that the genuine ‘abuse’ he gets is unwarranted and consequential. But he instantly reminds us of what has warranted so much genuine criticism. “The resentment I get is real,” he says, possibly meaning the resentment he “feels,” although it is true either way. And “It turns into anger and hatred” for the “haters.” As he demonstrates with petty tirades against other clubs.
“I hold grudges,” he tells us, like we hadn’t noticed. “I’m furious that we drew with Leatherhead at the weekend because I believe we owe them from the FA Trophy and banging our changing-room door down and singing our song and putting it on social media,” he whines, referencing some long-forgotten mischief from last season. And Leatherhead dumped Billericay out of the FA CUP. “I want to smash these tonight because they played our song when they beat us 2-1 at their ground,” he adds of Tonbridge.
Indeed, whenever self-awareness threatens, Tamplin quickly quashes it. “I should have stepped down (as manager) maybe ten games ago,” he admits. Only the crème-de-la-arrogant would say otherwise, as Ricay lost six of them. Cue Tamplin: “Not every human being is like me,” he notes, channeling his inner Gloria Swanson in ‘Sunset Boulevard” (“I am big, it’s the pictures that got small”).
He also ‘admits’ to being “too harsh” on his players, “because they’re not me.” And their form has suffered because “they’ve become too pressured by me.” So, he’s learnt his lesson? As he says: “I do learn quickly.” Fat chance. If coaches Danny Hazel and Harry Wheeler “don’t win the league they don’t have their job at the end of the season.”
Tamplin doesn’t say if promotion via the play-offs will save Harry and Danny, possibly because he isn’t countenancing the possibility that Ricay will need them. Their current £25,000-per-week playing budget (yikes!) will apparently be cut to £10,000. And, Tamplin explains: “Two of the top three teams in the league above are on a ten-grand budget. I don’t think we can win it on that budget, so I want to win the play-offs.” First things first, Glenn.
Not being “arrogant and flash,” Tamplin doesn’t want to talk about his charity and philanthropy…at great, sometimes embarrassing, length. “Rob,” he tells the ‘interviewer,’ “you know me. I’ve helped YOU personally with different things that we won’t show on camera,” things ‘Rob’ might not have wanted heard on camera, either.
And he doesn’t want to talk about it so much that he refuses to answer the question about it (“all your charity and community projects you was doing were well documented through media, radio and TV. Now, everyone at the club still knows you are doing plenty of these things but you have chosen now away from the public eye. Why is that?”) for a-minute-and-a-half
Little wonder, because, Tamplin insists, “whatever I do will be turned into a negative.” (‘no, it won’t,’ they cry). He refuses to give examples, such as “people turning a boy with an operation with new legs into a negative, me helping a woman and her child through Christmas because her husband’s stood in front of a train into a negative.”
And, fortunately, “I’ve kept it quiet. I don’t brag or boast or put it out there because I’m not bragging or boasting. I’m simply sharing what good the club’s doing, not me. You’re aware of the latest two children that I’m helping, you’re aware of the money I’m spending. No-one else is. One day it might come out in the papers. But I’m not doing interviews no more. I’m staying away from the parapet, I’m keeping my head below the wall. I go about my work slowly and quietly.” He says. On YouTube.
Smaller gems abound His oft-repeated desire to make Billericay “substainable” explains a lot and doesn’t get any less funny each time he says it. His claim that “we’ve gone from “80/100 fans average to let’s call it 13/1400 fans average” is only wrong on two counts and may induce the ultimate identity crisis among all but “80/100” of Billericay’s 400-or-so average home attendance, pre-Tamplin.
Referencing his infamous early departure from the recent 4-1 loss at Hendon, he is somehow amazed that “leaving early because you’ve got a flight to catch” is “took as a negative.” His claim that “I’ve been attacked probably more than any manager/owner I know in non-league football” begs the question as to how many manager/owners there ARE in non-league football, let alone how many Tamplin knows.
His belief that “I’m liked by the fans, by the players and by the people” needs testing AFTER the money runs out. His confused sentence “when your fans question you, it’s tough to take but I know my fans don’t question me, I know deep down they trust me” is part-delivered with the defiant, grinning sneer of Bob Hoskins in the classic closing scene in the film “The Long Good Friday.”
And his closing statement disconcertingly dabbles with romantic poetry. After declaring that “this club (will) always get all of me” (flight timetables permitting, presumably), he lyricises: “If you’re bringing someone down, even if you love them, you have to walk away for them to grow. If you keep stamping on a bud, it will never blossom into a flower and that’s what I’m doing with my football team right now.”
You do “understand” Tamplin after this video, even if you’d never ‘encountered’ him before. But you also understand why Tamplin complains that he gets “judged so much because of the noise and the atmosphere I’ve created around the club.” His problem isn’t that he isn’t understood, it’s that he’s understood too well.