Some time ago, an article was encountered which compared Barcelona and the Kilkenny hurling team. Strange, you might think, given that one has, at most three teams that can harbour realistically challenge them while the other operated in what was – up to a few weeks ago – the best and most competitive league in the world.
In other ways however, the similarities were striking. Firstly due to the indelible and undeniable influence exerted by the respective team managers. Secondly, owing to one exceptional player being more of a talisman than the remainder of their colleagues combined. Where the Catalans called on Lionel Messi, the Cats ambitions centrally revolved around Henry Shefflin.
Perhaps the most glaring likeness, though, is the potential, at least, for the luxurious cruiser to hit choppy waters without the captain at the helm and the first officer seemingly struggling to find their respective sea legs. Mind you, that viewpoint might seem a bit odd given that Kilkenny recently won the National League yet again.
A couple of points are worth making though. Unlike normally, they did not swat away the opposition the consummate ease. Tipperary, of course must take some credit for that too. More telling may have been the fact that the real number one wasn’t there. Indeed, such is Brian Cody’s influence on everything Kilkenny hurling that selector Mick Dempsey openly admitted that there had been communication with the boss before and even during the game.
Similarly, it’s known that Tito Villanova was able to keep in some sort of contact with his charges when absent. Reduced influence isn’t the same though. Barcelona have been able to coast to another domestic title as the in-fighting at Real Madrid derailed their season. When pitched in against what turned out to be a rampant Bayern Munich outfit – and particularly shorn of Messi – Barca was ruthlessly exposed.
Manchester United supporters – not to mention directors, other staff and players – must be at least a tad engulfed in similar trepidation following Sir Alex Ferguson’s decision to call time (how ironic!) on his epic tenure at Old Trafford. It might be fanciful to suggest that the feeling was similar to that which was felt when Sean Boylan vacated the Meath job – especially given the personal relationship that exists with the latter – but, along similar lines, it certainly was.
The impact might be no less profound. Difference being, however, that in acting quickly and by enlisting the views and/or help of those who were involved in giving David Moyes the job brought stability and structure that Meath have – by times at least – lacked regarding such matters.
Continuation of Ferguson’s ideals will be crucial. Moyes may, in one sense, look a bold selection. But, with he whom is being replaced having a hand in picking his successor it’s hardly that big a shock. Tradition is a very important factor at United and during his time there Ferguson has totally espoused that. Picking Moyes, in many ways, ensures that’ll be adhered to. Like Ferguson – and Sir Matt Busby – he’s Scottish and also cut his teeth in lower divisions before going on to be a success at the top table.
For some reason, even though yours truly has been a lifelong Red Devil, a soft spot has always been retained for Everton. It cannot really be explained, but if a stab was to be taken at it, the most likely outcome might be due to some of the more stylish players they’ve had. Men like Neville Southall, Alan Stubbs, David Unsworth and Duncan Ferguson in the past have been mirrored by the likes of Seamus Coleman, Leighton Baines, Marouan Fellaini Mikael Artetta and Nikica Jelovic.
Mention of Artetta raises a crucial benchmark of the Moyes era at Goodison Park. Whenever one of his marquee players his moved on – think Artetta, Jack Rodwell and one Wayne Rooney – they have been replaced. Factor in the budgetary constraints under with Moyes operated and it demonstrates his astuteness.
He may need it. For it’s not impossible that he may have to replace some high profile heads – and quickly – at his new abode. Starting, most likely, with Rooney. The player protests his gripe was with Ferguson, but it’s actually hard to see where he fits into the equation now.
Van Persie may in one sense be getting on a bit, yet, you’d have to think he has a few more years left in him. Furthermore, the best may yet be to come from Chicarito and Danny Wellbeck and you suspect the newcomer may bring some old pals with him. Coleman and Fellaini maybe?
Most interesting of all may be how Moyes decides to handle the cases of people like Ryan Giggs – who recently signed a new contract. To this end, Paul Scholes has made the incoming gaffer’s job somewhat handier by announcing his retirement, again!
Hope would be that he would be kept on in some coaching capacity. The same applies to Giggs when he eventually quits. For, while it’s inevitable the new era will bring change, as much as is possible needs to be left as was.