Managers happy to go along with sideshows

A week is a long time in distraction.

Managers happy to go along with sideshows

They seem like innocent, carefree times now, those days when we thought the worst a man could do to distract his football team was release books and reminisce about the odd fight, and perhaps engage in the odd fresh scuffle.

We have since learned there is a lot more in these good football men, as they must be known, when it comes to the art of distraction, when they properly harness the twin forces of modern distraction: bantz and controvassy.

Any footballer you ask will tell you that the old ways of distraction, while quite distracting to the people enquiring about distraction, weren’t actually all that distracting at all.

As John O’Shea succinctly put it: “It is more for yourselves.” Or Richie Sadlier, nearly as succinctly, suggested: “It is very possible that nobody in that dressing room gives a toss.”

But in the face of these new, advanced distraction techniques, some of the people in the DW Stadium dressing room might now be a little bit distracted alright.

Under this new regime – seemingly a true meeting of minds between Malky Mackay and Dave Whelan – you might forgive the odd player for allowing his mind drift briefly from the task in hand to wonder what those two are laughing at, or what he’s texting about, or why that fellow has been picked ahead of me.

But, in fairness, Wigan won’t have gone down this road lightly. They have been driven to distraction by a second season languishing, as they say, outside the Premier League.

And, at the end of the day, nobody, not even Dave’s thousands of Jewish friends, will be able to say a dabble in racism and xenophobia and anti-semitism and bantz and controvassy hasn’t been worthwhile if they can pick up three precious points against Middlesborough this afternoon.

It may seem small-time now on the distraction scale, but we shouldn’t forget, all the same, that very different era, a week back, when Roy Keane was getting the full transcript treatment, normally reserved for sensitive political speeches, Papal briefings or boybands splitting up. When he was accused of causing more distraction by adamantly denying he was distracting anyone.

There may have been moments when Martin O’Neill has questioned the wisdom of bringing Roy on board. After this week, all doubt should be banished.

Martin didn’t spent that long in the Premier League without learning the value of controvassy.

You could almost imagine the pair sitting down before Roy’s latest press conference and Martin wondering if there was anything at all Roy would like to get off his chest, or anybody he’d like to call out, as they say in the UFC. Maybe they even brainstormed a few ideas, on the calling out front.

Sure enough, when it was Martin’s turn, next day, and when he might have been on the back foot, reflecting on one of the most sobering, craven performances in our recent history, he was able to emerge as the calm voice of tolerance and reason, diligently working through the distractions.

No, it’s ok, guys. I’m backing Roy.

What an asset to have at your side. The likes of Harry have to mastermind all these diversions themselves. Mourinho can only really rely on Rui Faria for a touchline sideshow, not the full press conference panto.

On then, without nearly as much glum introspection as there might have been, to another happy distraction: Tuesday night’s win over the USA.

In truth, there is no longer much to gain for Irish managers on nights like this.

In another sport, they might write a play about a friendly win, but Irish football fans have long been aware of the small print warning these performances are no guarantee of future returns. Indeed, when we see footballers playing casually, in these friendly matches, as if they have no managers at all, we sometimes get the impression that ours don’t look too bad after all.

And we get around to wondering what it is that our managers do, on the nights that matter, that fills our lads with pure blind panic.

It is undoubtedly a slightly false impression, since the panic mainly happens when our opponents want the ball off us, which isn’t always a priority in these friendlies.

The familiar panic did surface, late in the first half, on Tuesday night, when the Americans decided, for the heck of it, to put David Meyler under pressure.

David didn’t check the wing mirrors and duly coughed up and we conceded, but it was what he said afterwards that may have been the most instructive moment of the week.

“I shouldn’t have gone to receive the ball there.”

This was a top Premier League footballer collecting from a throw-in, with at least 10 yards of space, expressing regret at his inexplicable lapse into unnecessary bravado.

If that is what we’ll take away from Tuesday night, we will need many more distractions up ahead.

Roy, ITV, beautiful game, hard to match

You have almost certainly heard enough about Roy, for the time being, but one couldn’t help think of him again, later in the week, as a great wave of panic spread across the United Kingdom. And a secondary ripple here too.

Looks like ITV are after the Match of the Day highlights slot again.

Some of our people are still suffering the fallout from last time. They always held mixed feelings about U2 over there, and the role ’Beautiful Day’ played in this controversial broadcast didn’t do them many favours.

And they will never forgive Andy Townsend, for his Tactics Truck, and they certainly don’t want him in and around, as he’d put it, their Saturday nights again.

But with Roy on board, for a while, ITV’s natural giddiness seemed to be reined in a little. The odd hint of menace didn’t do any harm either.

And there was the occasional unmissable bit of punditry, such as the time Roy sat beside Steven Gerrard and told him England would struggle in the World Cup.

None of that would be any help, of course, if they elect not to show much football during the football highlights show, like last time.


Stairway To Heaven

Bernie Ecclestone: Say what you like about Bernie, ahead of his showpiece weekend, but you can’t knock his logic about ballet. “I just can’t understand the reason they have these girls dancing on their toes. Why don’t they get taller girls? It would be so much easier.”

Tommy Walsh: When my patented format for determining the greatest is eventually accepted – one-v-one in a cage, ref instructed to let it flow, he’d be in with a shout wouldn’t he?

Hell in a Handcart

Mrs Federer: Upsetting poor Stan Wawrinka in the lead-up to the Davis Cup final. Paul McGinley would never let that happen on his watch.

The England Band: Might those anti-IRA bum notes in Parkhead finally bring about our great escape from this shower?

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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

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