Wednesday 17 July 2019

John Aldridge: Dressing room power-shift is Roy Keane's biggest problem

Roy Keane and Callum O'Dowda during a Republic of Ireland training session
Roy Keane and Callum O'Dowda during a Republic of Ireland training session

John Aldridge

When the FAI hierarchy hear the WhatsApp audio from Stephen Ward describing Roy Keane's actions in his row with Harry Arter, it will leave them in a very difficult position.

I'm not going to say Roy should lose his job over this because that is not a decision I need to make and to be honest, I don't have enough facts about the situation to make a balanced judgement on what went on.

But if what we heard on that audio was accurate, it certainly sounds like he went way over the top in the way he spoke to Arter.

If a player was told to miss training by medical staff, he cannot ignore that advice and while Roy might have my mindset and believe you should be willing to play through the pain barrier from time to time, you can't go after a player like Arter and call him every name under the sun for not training.

In the past, that approach might have got a reaction, but we have seen what happens now with Arter pulling out of the squad and making it clear he would not go back until Keane has gone.

That decision has put the Ireland management team firmly on the back foot and while I believe there are suggestions that a reconciliation could still be possible between Arter and Keane, a lot of damage has been done to the latter's reputation here.

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I got on great with Roy when I played with him for Ireland and while he was always up for a row, we accepted him for what he was; a winner who wanted what was best for Ireland.

Back then, he was a world class midfielder and a player who we needed to give us an edge, but his role now is very different and he doesn't strike me as a guy whose personality is a natural fit as an assistant manager.

He's always had an explosive personality, so maybe we should not be surprised by the stories that have come out in recent days, but it is an example of old school management coming up against resistance from players who have real power in any dressing room.

Martin and Roy come from my era, when players were given a bollocking by their manager in front of their team-mates and it made you all the more determined to perform better in the next match.

Managers used all kind of mind games to get the best out of players, but the game is different now than it was 30 years ago and it seems that Martin and Roy are struggling to adapt to that.

Roy Keane and Martin O'Neill have been linked with a move to the Premier League

There have always been players who needed an arm around them to cajole them into performing and if I'm being honest, I hated working with that kind of player in my time as Tranmere manager.

I liked to have warriors in my team who would give their all to the cause and could stand up to a bit of criticism when it needed to be dished out, but times have changed and managers have to adapt to that.

Look at the way Jurgen Klopp has everyone pulling in the same direction at Liverpool and he has done that by using a brand of management that makes the players feel good about themselves rather than belittling them.

Man City boss Pep Guardiola and Spurs manager Mauricio Pochettino have a similar approach that is producing results and then you contrast that with Jose Mourinho at Manchester United.

Mourinho is 'old school' in the way he calls out players and puts them in their place, but the reaction from the likes of Paul Pogba and the other superstars in his dressing room suggests they don't like any part of that.

The fear factor approach is clearly not working any more and while it is hard for any manager to change an approach that they believe is right, the reality must be that young kids in this Ireland squad don't want to hear stories about how great Martin and Roy were in their playing days. Some of them were not even alive when O'Neill was winning European Cups under Brian Clough's management at Nottingham Forest, so telling those stories now will not help him.

I want the best for the Ireland team and I hope the players give everything to the cause in Poland tonight to make up for what was a horribly flat performance in Wales last Thursday.

If there is one thing we expect from an Ireland team it is a fighting spirit on the pitch and a clear direction being provided by the management team off it.

Here's hoping we see both of those qualities shining through tonight.

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