LARRY RYAN: The myth of management

Last month, Pádraig Harrington told us, on the back of Europe’s Ryder Cup win, that Paul McGinley could do a job managing in the Premier League.

This week, at the Web Summit in the RDS, we found out why, as McGinley showed us there was more to Europe’s win than the colour of the fish in the Gleneagles aquarium.

To make them win it, he showed the lads pictures. One of some rocks, festooned in blue and yellow, a monument to European implacability. Another of a young Seve, imploring them to look into his ruthless eyes.

And one of Poults, plucking from his chest a beating organ pumping blue European blood onto his hands and spilling yellow stars from its sundered arteries.

“Europe, I give you my heart,” was the legend. It is the single most disturbing image in sporting history and doubtless haunts the dreams of lads like Henrik Stenson every night since. But after the week’s Champions League action, maybe it is hanging in three Premier League dressing rooms.

There were others in the RDS telling us about data and sabermetrics and whatnot. Yet it was actress Eva Longoria delivered the most pertinent advice to Premier League managers. “Create the story you want to see, write the story you want to hear.”

McGinley is busy now, doing just that. Most gaffers are at it 24/7.

This week, Gary Neville promised us Premier League defending has never been worse. Before long, Arsene Wenger assured us it was better than ever. The numbers tend to favour Neville, though you might expect defenders were more comfortable if they faced more Ian Ormondroyds than Diego Costas.

Wenger was selling the idea his teams must set up adventurously due to the obdurate defensive blockages they encounter every week. As Anderlecht ran in the equaliser, half of Arsenal running in the other direction, that story had as many holes as his defence.

His fondness for an aphorism suggests Brendan Rodgers is the most likely investor in McGinley’s art. And Brendan is a ready storyteller too. It is not so long ago when his stock was highest, that Rodgers floated the idea Luis Suarez was replaceable, as long as Brendan’s philosophy was observed, going forward.

This week, he assured us he always knew they’d struggle to fill the void.

Before Liverpool’s two matches with Madrid, Phil Thompson was billing a “clash of the titans”. Brendan might have gone along with that, when he was talking about reestablishing glorious heritage. Instead, he tried to sell us Bernabeu surrender as trust in the group.

But it is Manuel Pellegrini who is struggling to put together any plausible story for us. At times, while men like Mourinho are optimising transitions and setting the medium block, it almost appears Manuel might very well just be showing them pictures. Only not the ones advising them to put their hearts into Europe.

But we are overlooking the people with the toughest story of all to sell. The people with most skin in the game, on weeks like this.

It is easy to forget, at times, that all of this stuff is simply content to the true powers in football: the broadcasters. In the RDS, Colm O’Neill, boss of BT Ireland, assured us the fundamentals of the sports market are sound, that there is no bubble in the value of sports rights.

As the latest big investor in the Premier League, BT must wonder, all the same, why the billions they pump into content creation isn’t always reflected in the product.

A long way from Lansdowne to Luton

When people talk about fundamentals being sound, they are rarely talking about the League of Ireland. Though there are many fairly sound fundamentalists involved.

But with a little blue-sky thinking, surely we can kickstart serious growth hacking?

We also heard, at the Web Summit, of a sports broadcasting future with micro cameras planted on players, so fans can watch the game from their hero’s point of view.

Augmented reality, they are calling it. Like a welcome break from grim reality.

There must be crossover opportunities here. Cameras on Roddy Collins and his pal John Still last Sunday could have turned a humdrum FAI Cup final into an exciting augmented reality talent TV competition. The prestigious prize: a contract at Luton Town.

Roddy as Simon Cowell, Still as Louis. We’d need glamour, of course, in the Cheryl role. Pat Dolan, I suppose.

While we wonder about the fundamentals of Irish football, it might be instructive to consider the experiences of a young footballer with some talent show experience. Freestyler Daniel Dennehy is off to Brazil this week for the Red Bull Street Style world finals. He didn’t win the All-Ireland Talent Show a few years ago, and his talents don’t appear to have been fully appreciated in Dublin schoolboy football either, which he eventually gave up after tiring of coaches advising him to “get rid of it”.

Watching people like Neymar fooling around on the freestyle circuit, and the likes of Ronaldo producing trick showreels, you’d hope we weren’t still squeezing out young lads who are fond of the ball. If so, how are we ever going to get Luton interested in our players?

One true seamless payment solution

Dónal Óg Cusack spoke at the Web Summit too, where another of the popular buzz phrases was “disruptive ideas”.

The kind of magic that emerges when game-changers and change-agents get round to taking a thought shower.

The GPA chairman spoke well and passionately, as usual, in the RDS.

He recalled his teenage years as an enthusiast for professionalism in the GAA, but admitted maturity brought relief that it hadn’t happened, that his sport remains a more wholesome place without it.

Sensible and realistic, for sure. Disruptive? It has been some time before you could level that charge, or accolade, depending where you’re coming from, at the GPA.

Amid recent criticism, the organisation argues it can achieve its aims for player treatment and welfare without agitation or destabilising structures.

Their members appear happy enough. But is it talking the language of teenage revolutionaries? Funnily enough, it was the GAA talking disruption at Web Summit, announcing a partnership between GAAGO and young bucks at Stripe, uttering those seductive phrases “seamless payment solutions” and “growing global reach in 150 countries”.

There must be a few teenage revolutionaries out there playing ball who fancy a slice of the seamless payment solution action.

No doubt, the GPA know this well. The people knocking around the Web Summit will have told them all about fast obsolescence too.

STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN

Rio Ferdinand: Told us, at the RDS, that Twitter has allowed him express his true personality to fans. Refreshing honesty, from somebody censured for racist and sexist language on the platform.

HELL IN A HANDCART

The ugly game friendlies

The first cold, cruel hand of winter: autumn internationals.

Jose Mourinho: Cranky, despite Chelsea’s start, even spoiling for a fight with his own fans. All this talk of Cesc and Costa and Hazard must have him itching for the spotlight.


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