Tuesday 16 January 2018

Fear factor trumps faith in our technique once again

James McClean
James McClean

Joe Malloy

You're familiar I'm sure with Rudyard Kipling and the much-loved advice he gave his son John?

It's all that stuff about keeping the head 'when all about you are losing theirs' and trusting yourself 'when all men doubt you'. Pretty good advice. Indeed one wonders if young John had any Irish heritage or the inclination to take control of matters in central midfield.

Because Sunday night in Warsaw again encapsulated how we struggle so badly for the latter. James McClean for example is not really a 'keeping the head when all about him are losing theirs' type of guy.

As the first half whipped itself into a frenzy, mostly in our half of the field, we were staggeringly bereft of the class to take the sting out things. Not once in that first 45 minutes did we string six or seven passes together. Naturally, Wes Hoolahan is a particularly useful character in these scenarios, but we still had enough quality and experience out there to make a better fist of it. We just never made a point of doing it.

Kenny Cunningham spoke to us on Monday night about his own experiences. "It's an easy thing to say, not such an easy thing to do. In those circumstances, with those kind of stakes, with so much tension around, to go hunting for the ball when there's pressure from behind is not so easy," he said.

"And you know if you give possession away or if the ball is wrestled away, you know the consequences. It's that fear factor. I felt it myself in those situations, even at centre-half.

"You have a touch of the ball, you want to have another touch, maybe step into midfield and maybe draw an opposition midfielder to release the ball to one of your own midfielders and put him in a more advantageous situation, but then that fear factor creeps in. You take the easy route and you go from back to front."

Brilliantly honest from Kenny. And that kind of sums us up too much of the time. We're inhibited. It's clear why John Giles says a manager has to insist his team play football. Otherwise the fear factor is too great. It trumps our faith in our technique every time. Now we're headed for two games where there is plenty to fear.

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