Football Friends Online – When 90 Mins Is Not EnoughCaptain Marvel to Managerial Muppet - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough Captain Marvel to Managerial Muppet - Football Friends Online - When 90 Mins Is Not Enough

Captain Marvel to Managerial Muppet

Roy Keane’s sacking from my beloved Ipswich Town wasn’t a surprise.  Watching their uninspired and leaderless performances over the past few months has been frankly painful; never have I seen the old blue and white so lacking in ideas, creation, invention.  Everything really.  A Championship squad containing the likes of David Norris, Gareth McAuley and Connor Wickham should be performing a whole lot better.  Unfortunately, the problems lay solely at our esteemed manager’s door.

Poor signings were plentiful throughout Keane’s reign.  The likes of Tamas Priskin, Darren O’Dea and Colin Healy seemed hopelessly lost whenever they ventured out into the Championship battlefield.  This was confounded when good signings like Andros Townsend and Jake Livermore were consistently ignored when it came to first team duties.  People playing out of position was also commonplace with Keano; I remember recalling one game where our team selection left even the most ardent Town fan with a massively boggled brain.  Jamie Peters, a winger, was right back.  O’Dea, a centre half, was left back.  We had two central midfielders on our flanks, and a defensive midfield player in Colin Healy playing in the ‘number 10’ role of our centre forward.

The style of play we played encompassed everything a fan doesn’t want to see.  Dull, limp, slow, sideways.  I’ve always found that losses aren’t actually what irk fans; it’s the manner of these losses that is so important.  If your boys put a good shift in, do their best and give you a bit of excitement, you’ll likely forgive that narrow home defeat against your bitterest league rivals, satisfied that sufficient effort was injected.  We just never had this, with the player’s undoubted effort going to waste in the face of disastrous tactics and team selections. 

Essentially, Keane displayed all the traits of a biblically bad manager.  Yet Keane at his peak was one of the finest midfielders to ever grace the game.  Tenacious, energetic, powerful and fearless, with an abundance of quality on the ball that people often forget about when talking about the man whose steely will to win is unmatched in British football.  All these qualities should have transferred seamlessly into the managerial domain, but given his shambolic performance at Ipswich I can assure you this wasn’t the case.

He isn’t the first on-field leader to freeze in the managerial spotlight.  Tony Adams displayed similar incompetence during his brief spell in charge at Portsmouth; Bryan Robson made a right hash of Middlesbrough, and Paul Ince resembled an excitable child when given the reins at Blackburn.  These men were true giants on the field, at a game which came naturally to them.  They were surrounded by truly great players, so their desire and relentless pursuit of high standards wasn’t out of place amongst their team mates.

Put these players in the managerial dug outs though, and their demands are suddenly unrealistic for players blessed with much more modest talents.  As good as Grant Leadbitter is as a central midfielder for Ipswich Town, he is never going to be Roy Keane.  I imagine that as Keane continually saw his charges fail to replicate his on-pitch performances, the frustration must have grown within him.  I believe this frustration led Keane to some of his more ‘inventive’ decisions, abandoning logic in favour of an outlandish ploy to somehow make Ipswich Town into the Manchester United of the nineties.

Players these days are much more delicate creatures.  While conviction and self-belief are paramount in any good manager, criticising your players and constantly demanding more and more just isn’t going to get you results.  Players won’t be interested.  The key to modern management is instilling confidence into this new breed of fragile footballers, whose careers can be made or broken on the outcome of one chance in front of goal.  The likes of Owen Coyle, Ian Holloway and Steve Bruce were not outstanding players, but through a more careful and softer version of football management they are experiencing much more success in the dugout compared to the likes of Keane, Ince and Adams.  Average players such as Arsène Wenger and José Mourinho are further evidence of the coaching benefits accessible by having no notable success as a player.

Mourinho in particular is the maestro in making his players’ self-confidence soar.  The likes of Wesley Sneijder, Deco and Didier Drogba were transformed into the world’s best under his tutelage at their respective clubs, simply because he kept insisting that these and the rest of his players were the best.  The problem for Roy Keane is, no matter how good the players he manages are, they’re never likely to be as good as he was.  I suspect he knows this, which is why until he can overcome this superiority complex, fans like me will be questioning Keane’s managerial ability for a long time yet.

Jon Vale

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