Thursday, June 28, 2007


It has to be a sign of the increasing pressures on managers. Full time set-ups; increasing competition; expectations of fans and boards; childcare; house prices; the cost of tooth whitening.

The glamour of professional football comes with attendant baggage. There are more interviews, more interest. The protagonists are learning to deal with increased media demands and struggling to control their emotions when the mesmerising microphones are placed beneath their dry lips.

Damien Richardson RRS is often prosaic in his post and pre match deliberations. But he will never lose those three letters after his name; a hard-earned token of his abilities at the lower end of the scale. Most of us let Damien’s warblings rattle around in our unconscious until his lips stop moving – then we tune in again. This has now been proven to be a foolish course, as el Rico has returned to his finest form in some style.

Not embarrassed about comparing himself to the thinking manager’s crumpet - Arsene Wenger – the gifted one proceeded to inform us that he includes himself in the pantheon of managerial greats. But I may be too quick to judge.

Damo claims that the best manager’s are not following the ball; they are experiencing the game in widescreen. Is your ’keeper where you want him to be when your team is attacking? Are the defenders in good shape? Where is your holding midfielder? If one of your full backs is attacking, is the midfielder dropping back to cover?

But then I realised that Damien is absopremely right. This enlightenment has also made me realise that my brief managerial career was littered liberally with previously unrecognised signs of my greatness.

I must preface this revelation with relevant detail. My managerial epoch predated SUV’s and large bags of leather balls. Kit bags were procured from the post office; water came in a scruffy plastic container; sponges were a luxury. kida arrived with their kit in a plastic shopping bag - because they were free then. Matching knicks and socks? Snigger.

Now it’s all Tristan and Nigel and expensive boots and Gatorade and glamorous mothers and post match meals in McDonalds – they’re turning it into sawker!

Many are the memories of missing a goal, and why? Because I was looking to see where my defenders were? Er, not exactly. I was looking to see was the post office bag still there; was our ball still there; was anyone trying to break into the car; was anyone trying to break into the pavilion; was the gang of scruffy kids behind the goal unnerving my netminder; where were the bored substitutes gone? A quick glance at the sky to ensure it wasn't about to p*** down on the clothes - and they say men can't multi-task.

All the while fending off the opinions of the one parent who couldn't come up with an excuse for not giving us a lift to our away fixture that week. That’s pressure!

It is indeed much more intense at the top. Rovers, Cork, Bohs, the Drogs and Pats are all eyeing the prize from varying distances. Each of their managers is employed to further the ambitions of his club. If he sees things in a skewed way, that is to be expected. They are not paid to be philosophical in defeat. These overlords of Irish football are one-eyed monsters who will blindly and callously promote the interests of their club.

But those of us who look on from the neutral's vantage point can extract endless enjoyment from the spectator sport that is manager-baiting. Don't you just love to watch them scream for every throw in, dispute every decision given against their side and then hurl abuse at the fourth official because there's nothing to kick in the immediate vicinity.

Roll on the run-in.

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