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  • Published: 15 June 2016
  • ISBN: 9780099598657
  • Imprint: Arrow
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $19.99

Living on the Volcano

The Secrets of Surviving as a Football Manager

A close look at the life of football managers.


A man punches the wall in a strategic show of anger. Another complains he has become a stranger to those he loves. A third relies on “my three a day: coffee, Nurofen and a bottle of wine.” Yet another admits he is an oddity, who would prefer to be working in cricket. A fifth describes his professional life as “a circus”. These are football managers, live and uncut. Arsene Wenger likens the job to “living on a volcano: any day may be your last”. He speaks with the authority of being the longest serving manager in the English game, having been at Arsenal for 17 years. The average lifespan of a Football League manager is 17 months. Fifty three managers, across all four Divisions, were sacked, or resigned, in the 2012-13 season. There were fifty seven managerial changes in the 2013-14 season. What makes these men tick? They are familiar figures, who rarely offer anything more than a glimpse into their personal and professional lives. What shapes them? How and why do they do their job? Award-winning writer Michael Calvin provides the answers.

Insecurity is a unifying factor, but managers at different levels face different sets of problems. Depending on their status, they are dealing with multi-millionaires, or mortgage slaves. Living on the Volcano charts the progress of more than 20 managers, in different circumstances and in different phases of their career. Some, like Brendan Rodgers and Roberto Martinez, are at the peak of their profession. Others, like Chris Hughton, Brian McDermott and Gary Waddock, have been sacked, and are seeking a way back into the game. They offer a unique insight into a trade which is prone to superficial judgement and savage swings in fortune. Management requires ruthlessness and empathy, idealism and cunning. Stories overlap, experiences intermingle, and myths are exposed.

  • Published: 15 June 2016
  • ISBN: 9780099598657
  • Imprint: Arrow
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 464
  • RRP: $19.99

About the author

Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin is one of the UK’s most accomplished sportswriters, having worked in more than eighty countries. He has covered every major sporting event, including seven summer Olympic Games and six World Cup finals. He was named Sports Writer of the Year for his despatches as a crew member in a round-the-world yacht race and has twice been named Sports Reporter of the Year.

His book, The Nowhere Men, a study of football scouts, won The Times Sports Book of the Year prize in 2014. He became the first author to receive the award in successive years, when Proud, his collaboration with former Wales and British Lions rugby captain Gareth Thomas, was named Sports Book of the Year in 2015.

In the same year Living On The Volcano, which exposed the pressures on managers, was shortlisted for the William Hill Sports Book of the Year prize. No Nonsense, his collaboration with Joey Barton, was named Autobiography of the Year in the 2017 British Sports Book awards.

No Hunger In Paradise, an insight into youth football that spawned a widely-praised BT Sport documentary, was a Sunday Times bestseller. State of Play, a study of the morality and social impact of modern football, was longlisted for the 2018 William Hill Sports Book of the Year award.

He has been working closely with Thomas Bjorn on Mind Game to capture the unique nature of golf, and the principles and philosophies of the world’s best players.

Also by Michael Calvin

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Praise for Living on the Volcano

The honesty in Living on the Volcano suggests that in an era of anodyne press conferences where so many managers speak a lot while saying little, giving fans an occasional glimpse of these feelings might be no bad thing

The Guardian

an illuminating new book...vivid journey on what it is really is to be a football manager


Arguably the greatest asset of Michael Calvin’s previous, award-winning book The Nowhere Men was its human insight into a shadowy, under-appreciated world. The trials and tribulations of scouting were vividly portrayed through interviews with figures unaccustomed to the limelight... What Living on the Volcano does so brilliantly, is pick up the recurring threads. The ‘band of brothers’ mentality that emerges is built on a mutual world of uncertainty, frustration, and ‘recurrent rejection and renewal’. Each chapter is cleverly connected to the next to reflect the fluid nature of the managerial merry-go-round… As a series of individual portraits, Living on the Volcano may seem like a book to dip in and out of. However, in doing so, there’s a danger of missing the power of the overall narrative. Bookended by former Torquay manager Martin Ling’s emotional story, this is a book about people and what it takes to do their intoxicating and exhausting job. Just as with The Nowhere Men, Calvin gets to the personal core of an impersonal industry

Of Pitch and Page

Brilliant stuff

FourFourTwo Magazine

an eye-raising insight into the realities of life in the dugout

The Times

Calvin’s book takes us into many enthralling areas. It is especially strong on the nuts and bolts of ambition. And how ambition often sits uneasily alongside dreams… superb

Irish Examiner

a remarkable insight into the often hopelessly neurotic world of those in charge of a professional football dressing-room… The book conveys a fragile side of management most often kept obscured. Its real beauty is that it deals with people, not caricatures

Irish Independent

the narrative of Ling’s decline forms a vivid part of the superb new book which seeks to understand, like never before, the interior mind and challenges of a football manager. Mike Calvin’s Living on the Volcano reaches way beyond the standard press conference propaganda


a remarkable insight into what makes these men [football managers] tick, or in some cases, tic. Stress, insomnia, paranoia, depression with a dash of ego, a dollop of insecurity and there you have it … one volatile cocktail. Calvin is an exquisite writer but he is also a “proper” journalist. If a manager wants to keep talking, thus revealing far more than he perhaps intended, Calvin sits back and allow the dictaphone to take the strain then lets the quotes run.

Sports Journalist Association

I am quite sure that football fans would be more patient and have a better understanding of the problems and pressures that managers face every day if they took the time to read Mike Calvin’s fascinating and illuminating new book

BFC Talk

The book's greatest achievement is in making managers look human - people just like you, your father, your son or your husband. It is a melancholy book, about the death of dreams and idealism. But it is also uplifting, because it shows how difficult it is to extinguish a fiery spirit.

When Saturday Comes

revealing and enjoyable… a memorable book

Sunday Express

a book you need to read if you want to understand football

Soccer Issue

For any football fan with the belief that football isn’t quite as simple as the average fan on the street believes this is a fascinating read, and if your football role is on the other side of the touchline or on the training pitch, this book gives an insight rarely available.

Each Game As It Comes

The brilliance of Calvin’s book is to reveal that managers, whether vilified or revered, have a vulnerable side. They might have a particularly thick skin, but they’re fragile and fallible too. This book will leave you with a much greater appreciation for the work they do. Behind the team-talks, the press-conference meltdowns, the club statements and departures by mutual consent, there are complex characters working in an incredibly pressurised, often hostile environment. Managers are more than scapegoats or miracle workers – this heartening, harrowing book gives them a human face.

Sport Magazine

Living on the Volcano is another astonishingly strong book from the author of Familyand The Nowhere Men. Mike Calvin has once again reached heights with his sports writing which seems to be unfair on his peers. His ability to gain access to the people who really count is phenomenal and ensures once again that Living on the Volcano is a triumph. The chapters which focus on the lower league managers are for me the strongest as we hear from men who don’t often make the headlines. I for one can’t wait for what Mike does next.

Matt Gardiner sports bookseller at Waterstones and founder of Manchester Football Writing Festival

If were to pick my favourite read for the year I would have to go for Michael Calvin’s Living on the Volcano. This dissection of football manager, thanks to the experiences of famous and less well known managers, puts into focus the reality of football management. Although I was never under the illusion that it is as easy a job as many seem to think that it is, there were passages in this book that still took me by surprise.

Paul Grech, author of Il Re Calcio: Stories From Italian Football

It comes as no surprise to say the most enjoyable football book I’ve read in 2015 was Living on the Volcanoby Michael Calvin. It has become rather expected of Calvin to deliver such brilliance packed in to a small space, but he has done so once again with this superb reading of football managers. He isn’t afraid to scrutinise when he sees best, and also gives a number of different interviews with the Premier League’s top coaches. These managers do, however unfortunate, keep to a very stylised and cliché based response which might hamper the true feel of the book, but the writing is what I came for and it didn’t disappoint.

George Rinaldi, English and Italian football writer and author of the upcoming Calcio’s Greatest Forwards

in-depth interviews with football managers build an authoritative picture of what it is like to work in [the football management] world

Huw Richards, Guardian - Sport books of the year

in-depth interviews with football managers build an authoritative picture of what it is like to work in [the football management] world

Huw Richards, Guardian - Sport books of the year

The best books have tension at the heart of them. Sometimes resolved, sometimes not. This book is a walk through the terrible, awful, insanely stressed, deeply unhealthy world of English football management alongside the men who love it more than anything in the world. There is a completely intractable tension driving it, that of men trapped in a fatal attraction because the only job they want to do just happens to be one of the worst jobs imaginable. It makes for a fantastic book, albeit one whose most compelling parts are almost macabre. Calvin keeps himself out of the way and lets the managers spill their guts so there are long tranches of quotes, giving the book a confessional and even intimate feel

Irish Times

Living on the Volcano by Michael Calvin is a revealing, often disturbing look at football manager’s lives in the modern era… The dugout should carry a health warning

Henry Winter, The Times (Books of the Year)

Brilliant study of football managers. Superb.

Daily Mail

Calvin's Living on the Volcano is possibly the best study in the harsh realities of life as a football manager you are likely to find in any book [...] Calvin provides access and insight into a much-talked-about but little-understood profession and its unique pressure [...] Both gripping and empathetic, the book goes behind the cliches, myths and public fronts to provide portraits of real people experiencing the highs, lows and ruthlessness of life in the dugout.

Arsenal World

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