During the year many challenges surface and the confidence needed to make the vital difference will rise and dip with the peaks and troughs of a normal season – unless of course you’re managing Kilkenny.
Personal enthusiasm is sustained by the self belief that you are making a difference and that your objectives can be achieved. In sporting terms this means that the team under your direction challenges strongly for honours. Harmony in the camp is another vital ingredient. If it is absent team morale can take a nosedive which then affects performance and the team descends into a downward spiral with little chance of recovery unless some major change is introduced.
This is often seen cross-channel in the Premier League when a new manager comes in and improves results a la Roberto Mancini or provides the belief to escape near-certain relegation.
The new manager normally brings the vital ingredients of enthusiasm and self-belief missing prior to that.
In a dressing room with serious disputes these vital components are lost. How can teams believe they’ll win if management and players are pulling in different directions?
How can a manager enthusiastically believe if most of his first choice players won’t play?
If a manager is brought in to win trophies or at least realise the highest degree of potential in his squad then he must have all his top players available. Enthusiasm and self belief wanes very quickly when depleted squads are being hammered by seasoned opposition.
This is not to say that top players are indulged in any way – they are important to a team but only in as far as they are contributing positively to the cause. If star players are creating disharmony by their attitude in the camp a manager is neglecting his responsibilities and duties to the others if he fails to take prompt remedial action.
There is an ongoing dispute in Limerick at present which began in October when 12 players were effectively dropped from the 2010 panel without any explanation except in the case of Mark Foley.
In an interview given by manager Justin McCarthy, the reason for the cull was the apparent lack of commitment shown by the players during the 2009 season.
The timing of the management’s course of action has baffled me from the start of this sorry mess.
The time to “sort out” a lack of commitment, if one exists is during the playing season as it sends a strong message to the panel. Other players are quick to notice a lack of genuine positive attitude among their own and rarely quibble if such action is taken by management.
If Justin wanted to dispense with various players why drop them in October? There was a ban on intercounty training until January 1. Why not excuse the regulars from any gatherings until January and then drop them if they were, in his eyes, below par in commitment to training or games, if that was indeed the reason.
Judging form can be subjective. Giovanni Trapattoni got some stick for not playing Andy Reid. He felt that he did not fit into his style of play. Justin could have done the same although there’s not a whole lot of readymade replacements in Limerick.
Players will accept management decisions if the explanation is plausible and players are very slow to disagree with selectorial decisions as the manager’s job is to pick the team.
The dispute on Shannonside has become very similar of late to previous disputes in other counties and a pattern is emerging. The manager states that he was appointed to do a job and that he will see it through. The county board repeats it is backing the manager. However the board will change when it has to and unfortunately once a dressing room is lost it is the manager who takes the responsibility as the buck always stops at his door no matter the circumstances.
The manager’s job in any county carries expectations of putting one’s best foot forward and best team out.
Limerick hurling supporters may be divided on who is at fault and how best to solve the impasse but there is no satisfaction for fans in watching a Limerick fifteen masquerading as their senior team being hammered time and again.
The manager is the leader of any intercounty team but going forward as a leader without followers seems a futile exercise.