Colin Sheridan: Communication key to Kenny’s survival

Publicly commenting on someone’s inability to communicate is a little like commenting on somebody’s weight. It’s rude. No good ever comes from it.
Colin Sheridan: Communication key to Kenny’s survival

QUESTIONS: Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny celebrates his side's second goal scored by Michael Obafemi during the UEFA Nations League B Group 1 match between Republic of Ireland and Armenia at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. Pic: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

STEPHEN KENNY has a communications problem. Whether or not that problem extends beyond his press briefings to the dressing room is not clear, but, if the FAI are to genuinely back Kenny to succeed, it is in everyone’s interest to better equip him with the tools to articulate himself in a manner commensurate with the job he is paid to do together with his talents as a football manager.

By not doing so they are signing his death warrant. Kenny may be winning the footballing philosophy war, but, with every good performance and bad result (see Scotland), and bad performance and good result (see Armenia), the aura he projects reeks of a man persecuted by the weight of being misunderstood.

Publicly commenting on someone’s inability to communicate is a little like commenting on somebody’s weight. It’s rude. No good ever comes from it. It could be argued that Kenny’s struggles articulating himself to the outside world are secondary to anything he does as a manager behind closed doors.

In the purest terms, it is. Who cares what he tells us, it’s what he tells the players that counts. The problem, however, is that it’s the external communication that gives him room to breathe and execute his plan. It’s like an actor making a Marvel movie so he can pursue his indie projects.

If Kenny could just learn to better explain himself, he may be given the oxygen he needs to evolve his passion project. Instead, Kenny’s pained expression in trying to publicly make sense of a poor result is often excruciating to watch.

He is not indignant and arrogant, as Martin O’Neill sometimes was. Nor does he have the luxury of an interpreter as Trap did (though you sometimes wish he had). He is never disingenuous and is honest to a fault, but, within that honesty is hidden the same naivety that often infects his players.

Lamenting the Scottish penalty nine days ago, conceded after Alan Browne was penalised for handball, Kenny complained of a push on Browne just before the offence. In fact, Browne was pushed, but by his own player. In Kenny’s defence, the interview was only minutes after the game so he was likely in the dark, but his choice to lean on this as an excuse for a poor result was indicative of his overall communications strategy in the face of defeat — peak “put upon”.

Kenny is very obviously an erudite man, a deep thinker with an admirable social conscience. He is unafraid of talking about the dreaded “non-football” matters so many managers choose to avoid. His ability to communicate his beliefs and opinions in programme notes, for example, are a welcome change from the jargon filled non-opinions of many others in his profession, but he needs help.

Whether it’s a strong assistant manager who can assume the burden of communicating ideas and strategy to the press, or some intensive coaching in this regard, if he continues on his current trajectory he is in danger of shortening his tenure for reasons with no relevance to football, but everything got to do with the art of management. It’s not that he needs to tell the media and his detractors what they want to hear, but there is a middle ground. His most high-profile critics are ex-players who are suspicious of his credentials given he never played or managed at the highest level.

Damien Delaney, so often a measured and level headed pundit, has been increasingly animated by what he sees as Kenny getting an easy ride. It reminds me of the story of Sean O’Casey who, after writing his anti-war play “The Silver Tassie”, was scorned by WB Yeats for having notions as a writer with direct experience of the Great War.

O’Caseys rebuke was short; “Was Shakespeare at Actium or Phillipi…?”. The problem for Kenny is, despite his best intentions he is no Shakespeare or O’Casey. His work in developing a footballing philosophy that will be his legacy is admirable, but unless he has a few hits, Delaney and others will always amplify his misses.

They’ve been in the trenches and seen the carnage. Their opinion will always matter more. Cody, Belichik, Katie Taylor, even Paul O’Donovan, none of them, whether by accident or design could be mistaken for Bobby Kennedy when it comes to talking to the press. All of them can point to the scoreboard to silence their critics, however.

In the absence of (meaningful) communication, perception and reality are often the same, meaning, if Kenny can’t convincingly defend his position, what his detractors perceive to be happening (in a nutshell, that he’s out of his depth), will soon be accepted as reality and he will be sacked. He needs time. An effective communications strategy will buy him some.

It’s four months until Ireland’s next game. People learn a new language in less time than that. Control the controllables — so goes the military mantra. If Kenny can, it may make this process of progress much more palatable to those who doubt him.

Legend Mullins a leader of men

For those of us too young to remember him as a player but old enough to know his name, Brian Mullins meant far more than just a man who kicked a ball.

Perhaps it was the look — swashbuckling and blond, unkempt and warrior like. Perhaps it was the way legendary commentator Michael O’Hehir used to say his name, or perhaps it was simply that, as a man he epitomised a golden era of footballers, but Mullins was indisputably an icon.

If his sad passing does nothing else, it will surely remind us all of his transcendence and authenticity as a leader of men.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h’anam dílis’.

Hummel make a stand on Qatar

For those of us too young to remember him as a player but old enough to know his name, Brian Mullins meant far more than just a man who kicked a ball.

Perhaps it was the look - swashbuckling and blond, unkempt and warrior like, perhaps it was the way Michael O’Hehir used to say his name, or perhaps it was simply that, as a man he epitomised a golden era of footballers, but Mullins was indisputably an icon.

If his sad passing does nothing else, it will surely remind us all of his transcendence and authenticity as a leader of men. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a h'anam dílis'.

Poker proves the real deal for TV drama

First, it was the world of chess rocked by a cheating scandal, the sordid details of which would make an alley cat blush, now, the world of high-stakes poker.

During a televised World Poker Tour event on Friday, Garrett ‘Gman’ Adelstein accused his opponent Robbi Jade Lew of cheating after she won a huge hand with what many poker players would consider to be a poor set of cards. Lew contested the accusation, but remarkably gave her opponent back the money she won after a private conversation between the two during which she later claimed she felt “cornered and threatened” by Adelstein.

Forget the NFL, It may be time to start watching poker…

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