Friday, October 07, 2005

Strife of Brian, or the Holy Grail?

At what stage in Football Management 101, foundation level, module entitled "Fundamental Tenets of Media Relations" do they teach you that, in the event of getting a rather rough time from the gallant gentlemen of the press, the best policy is...not to talk to them at all! Yes it makes total sense! There's nothing that virtuous and reverent vocation prefer than the occasional reminder through the silence of their quarry just how, well, gosh, hurtful they can be. "I say chaps, you know I think we've rather offended Brian with our analysis and critical study of what, let's be honest, has been a wonderful qualifying campaign so far, full of stirring Irish performances to warm the cockles through the winter months. Do let's go a little easier on the poor blighter!"

Brian Kerr's week long sulk is presumably part of a circle-the-wagons policy to engender a sense of resolve in his embattled camp at what, to continue the western metaphor, could be Greener's Last Stand. But, who'd-a-thunk it, the near total silence from the Ireland manager (and also the pushing forward for press duties of what can really be said to be the chaff of the squad) has instead created the vacuum which has been filled by a week of almost constant debate and speculation on the manager's future, criticism of his policy of omerta and general raking over the smouldering coals of his regime thus far.

The attitude has become the issue, and that can surely only make things harder.

Of course the core text for this managerial strategy is the collected works of Alex Ferguson, entitled Youse are All F@#cking Idiots. The thinking is that by creating the 'them and us' environment, the players respond favourably to the sense of siege mentality and succeed against adversity.

But while Ferguson's players, at least in the halycon days of Ole Purple Face's empire, trusted their manager implicitly, there is nothing to suggest that Kerr has anything like the same paternal aura within his squad, despite his involvement with many of them at youth level- admittedly a vastly more difficult quality to create in the international environment. Indeed a criticism voiced previously in this manor is how Kerr's Ireland have never really enjoyed the "club" feel that previous Irish success has been built around.

As Kerr's international career hangs on a precipice, this would appear to be his last gamble. For all that Cyprus are one of the minnows of the group, and in normal circumstances should represent three easy points for Ireland, the fates would appear to be lining up ominously. The absence of Roy Keane, the gradual sapping of morale which must have begun in the dying minutes in Tel Aviv, and now the Damoclean sword which hangs over the manager; it will take an enormous demonstration of a character which has been hitherto absent from Ireland in recent years to take six points from these two games, and I would be very surprised if a highly publicised media hissy-fit is the catalyst to create it.

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