Forget Euro 2020, forget the Tokyo Olympics, there’s only one competition that really matters this year.
Yes, it’s the final of The Great British Bake Off, the most endearing show on television and the one that opened the floodgates for a slew of counterfeit imitators that revel in the commodification of all of your grandma’s favourite activities. Rumours that the BBC are planning to green light The Great British Three Rings When You Get Home Off are as yet unsubstantiated.
Anyways, with the final set to take place this evening (November 23rd), it got us thinking about how every Premier League manager might fare if they were to swap the touchline for the tent. Because, y’know, why wouldn’t it?
So, join with us as we enter the pantheon of pastry, the bear pit of buns, and pose the question that literally nobody asked: “How would a bunch of top flight bosses get on if they were forced to bake some cakes in a massive gazebo?”.
*This article was largely written before Manchester United very rudely decided to dismiss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer from his post at Old Trafford. While their managerial limbo continues, we’ve decided to include the Norwegian anyway.
Mikel Arteta - Arsenal
Arteta had a disaster early doors when he nearly killed Paul Hollywood after a couple of errant rotting kippers accidentally found their way into his Iberian seafood tarts. Somehow, both he and the silver fox Scouser both survived the ordeal, and ever since then the Gunners boss has gone from strength to strength by drawing inspiration from his storied predecessors. “B. Rioch’s Buttery Brioche” was an unexpected hit, but it remains to be seen how enamoured the judges will be with his “Arsene About Crumble”, topped with digestive biscuits that took 22 years of patience and affection to bake, but just a few short months to smash into smithereens.
Steven Gerrard - Aston Villa
“So Steven, for this week’s choux pastry technical you’ve decided to bake us a pyramid of profiteroles filled with crème pâtissière, served with a white chocolate ganache?”. “Yeah, course”. “But you spent too much time slagging off the fella who operates the sprinkler system at Anfield with Brendan Rodgers and appear to have been forced into improvising an alternative filling of salad cream and demerara sugar at the last second?”. “Yeah, course”. “And you understand why we have to send you home, don’t you?”. “Yeah, course”.
Thomas Frank - Brentford
A real mad scientist whose visionary approach falls somewhere between that of Heston Blumenthal and a Year 7 who forgot to tell their parents they had Food Tech in the morning, consequently consigning them to an ingredient list scavenged from the off-licence opposite the school gates. Are his eccentric methods usually effective? God no. Are they bloody good fun anyways? Depends how much you like Pot Noodle Wellington.
Graham Potter - Brighton
Potter looked to be a real dark horse early on, thrilling the judges with his tantalising concoctions and joyous passion for his multi-faceted showstoppers. In recent weeks, however, he has developed an unfortunate habit for leaving out a single key ingredient when it matters most. Time after time, bake after bake, his lovingly-crafted recipes are falling flat, and sooner or later you can’t help fearing that it could catch up with him. And yes, this is a thinly-veiled parable for Brighton’s inability to sign a decent bloody striker.
Sean Dyche - Burnley
Infinitely baffled by the mere existence of Noel Fielding, Dyche has made a pork pie for the past eight weeks running. Patience is wearing thin in the tent, but Hollywood is too scared to give the gravelly behemoth his marching orders. It’s Caramel Week next week. Sean’s fancying a lovely Melton Mowbray.
Thomas Tuchel - Chelsea
Tuchel bares more than a passing resemblance to Arthur Slugworth, the sweet-toothed antagonist on a child-bribing hunt for the Everlasting Gobstopper recipe in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In the tent, however, he proves himself to be a regular Willy Wonka, bringing all of the confectionery delight with none of the questionable labour practices. In fact, you might even say that he’s in possession of a golden ticket straight to the final. Sorry.
Patrick Vieira - Crystal Palace
The looming Frenchman has shown a much softer side to his usual granite demeanour in the tent, and is slowly winning just about everybody over with his quiet geniality and his increasingly refined palette of flavours. Move over Patisserie Valerie, there’s another Paddy V on the French baking scene.
Rafa Benitez - Everton
Rafa made one absolutely banging batch of Turkish Delight 16 years ago, and he hasn’t stopped harping on about it ever since. Recent efforts in the kitchen have been decidedly soggy-bottomed, so to speak, but much like Mr. Kipling - the cake-maker or the poet, take your pick - his goliath reputation has, thus far, carried him through the worst of the scrutiny.
Marcelo Bielsa - Leeds United
Hasn’t said a single word since he arrived in the tent, just sits in the back row on a bucket watching his mini sponges through the oven door as they rise to perfection. When he does eventually speak, he calls Noel Fielding and Matt Lucas “Mel and Sue”. Everybody laughs. Marcelo doesn’t know why.
Brendan Rodgers - Leicester City
A relatively sullen presence in the tent, Rodgers’ punctilious efficiency has ensured that his biggest challenge thus far has been asking for the flour in his laconic County Antrim drawl. The Brodge (as his hardcore fans have taken to calling him) has shown a particular fondness for Matt Lucas, however, who he says reminds him of a wee fella he used to know called Jonjo.
Jurgen Klopp - Liverpool
The resident elder hipster, Jurgen claims to boast a sourdough culture that can trace its lineage directly back to the 13th century court of Eberhard the Illustrious, Count of Württemberg. It’s probably (definitely) pure fabrication, but never let the truth get in the way of a good story. Either way, with his booming laugh and mastery of the loaves, he looks like a shoe-in for a spot in the kitchen of a daytime TV magazine show at some point in the future.
Pep Guardiola - Manchester City
The Spaniard struck up an unlikely bromance with Fielding based predominantly on a passion for sartorial experimentation. The relationship soon soured, however, over a heated quarrel centred around the relative merits of Rene Magritte’s idiosyncratic, deadpan approach to Surrealism. Pep was in a funk all day after that tiff, and his Flan de Naranja notably suffered for it.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer - Manchester United
After blowing his entire catering budget on icing sugar to decorate the top of his consistently underwhelming efforts, Solskjaer drew persistent criticism from Prue Leith for repeatedly choosing to build his recipes around an unorthodox pairing of Brazil nut and Scotch egg. To make matters worse, anytime the judges went to taste one of his bakes, the bottom disintegrated. Lasted an inexplicable amount of time before being voted off.
Eddie Howe - Newcastle United
Poor Eddie has been caught off guard by the hitherto unexpected Geordie week, and has spent the past couple of days frantically googling “pease pudding” and “singin’ hinnies”. At this rate he’s tempted to just sneak in a Greggs’ steak bake and pass it off as his own. Ya canna kid a kidder though, marra.
Dean Smith - Norwich City
Never going to win the thing in a month of Sundays, but Smith’s laid-back affability and beaming grin have made him a firm favourite of viewers everywhere, even sparking the hashtag #WWDD (What Would Dean Do?) on Twitter. His charming ‘thoroughly decent stepdad who lets you sneak a can of Fosters when your mam isn’t looking’ demeanour has even won him a couple of celebrity fans, including a certain quasi-namesake, Delia Smith. Keep her sweet and you could pick up a few tips and tricks, Dean.
Ralph Hasenhuttl - Southampton
Ralph felt absolutely ghastly when he inadvertently sabotaged Dean’s bake a couple of weeks ago. If he’d known how badly things were going to work out for the amiable Brummie he would never have moved his apple turnover onto the top shelf to clear room for his alpine almond number. To make up for it, the natty Austrian vowed to let Smith get the better of him with his lemon-topped canary pudding a fortnight later. Quite a nice thing to do in theory, but could it come back to bite him further down the line?
Antonio Conte - Tottenham Hotspur
Whereas his predecessor Nuno lived by the immortal James Acaster mantra of “Started making it, had a breakdown, bon appetit”, Antonio is not messing about. Sweeping into the tent with a suave meticulousness, his scales are militarily precise (and tungsten!), and his standards are exactingly high. Unafraid to embrace the red mist, he still hasn’t apologised for launching a below par scone off Thomas Frank’s forehead last week.
Claudio Ranieri - Watford
With absolutely zero interest in baking whatsoever, Claudio instead spends his time dismantling egg timers and regaling Matt Lucas with sepia tales from his childhood on the cobblestoned streets of the Eternal City. Oh how he would rather be gazing out over the Circus Maximus or eating Ziti alla Norma in a Testaccio side alley right now. Instead, he’s listening to Sean Dyche explain to Hollywood how sticking a single birthday candle in a pork pie DOES qualify it as a showstopper.
David Moyes - West Ham
The greatest turnaround in baking history since Mrs Lovett started knocking about with Sweeney Todd, Moyesy has gone from spent force to dark horse faster than you can say “Pirelli’s Miracle Elixir”. What’s his secret? Well, for Hollywood’s sake let’s just hope it’s not human flesh. Although come to think of it, has anyone seen David Martin recently?
Bruno Lage - Wolves
I don’t know much about Bruno Lage, but I like to imagine he’s the kind of guy who shoots whipped cream at people like it’s silly string. Absolutely nails the living **** out of an egg custard, but besmirches the Star Baker ceremony by ambushing Hollywood with a can of the fluffy stuff. Voted off in disgrace soon after.