Wondering your team isn’t doing well? Just watch those around them

It emerged during the week – in a development that would’ve surprised absolutely nobody – that Jim McGuinness may be in line for a return as Donegal football manager. It was surely a surprise to many that the Brains Trust in them there Hills let Jimmy slip away from winning matches so easily.

While it would be accepted that any team only has a certain era in which to make hay. Cognisance of that reality, though, wouldn’t explain how the Tir Chonaill have plumetted like a bit of silage that gets shot over the side of the trailer.

They’re not alone in that of course. That the great Armagh side of the early 2000s only lifted Sam Maguire once is one of the great sporting travesties.

The return of Jimmyball is probably not something anybody would be cartwheeling with joy about. But it is a reality that if you want to decipher why your team aren’t as good as desired, just look at those around you.

Thus, a decade or so ago, teams up and down the country – even club sides – tried to mimic Peil Sheamus. Which in a lot of cases left teams looking zombified, robotic and trapped in a universe somewhere between Rugby League and Basketball.

Until, belatedly to be honest, the bright spark copped that Dublin made the game their own for more than a decade by doing things the “naive” way as some people might think. Swarm defending, ferocious tackling and letting the ball do the work.

Lo and behold, Colm O’Rourke slowly but surely got Meath playing a similar style of football and, begod, didn’t silverware materialise at the (ridiculously early) end of their season.

So how, I hear you ask, do we get from there to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on a Saturday evening? Ange Postacoglu’s side are probably still probably bedraggled by the jetlag of their erstwhile superstar Mr Kane upping sticks for Bavaria.

Yet, on this occasion at least, the just carried on regardless. James Maddison bullied Manchester United in midfield and that allowed the big Aussie gaffer record his first win and most likely left Erik ten Hag scraping his scalp. Perhaps luckily, he has no hair to pull out!

Their misfiring, frustrating beginning to yet another season all too readily illustrated the chasm between them and the other club in the same city. Since the club scandalously let Cristiano Ronaldo leave again, they haven’t had a proper striker.

Marcus Rashford is definitely better further out the field, Anthony Martial’s body is about as reliable as the balance sheet in RTE and, though some might laugh, Wout Weghorst was let go.

All the while, United are, as per usual, linked with every player under the sun. Yet so far the only decent signings they have accomplished so far are those of Andre Onana, Mason Mount and the injured Rasmus Hojlund. Instead of breaking the bank to get Harry Kane or Evan Ferguson or somebody of comparable quality.

In contrast, whenever Manchester City have needed augmentation since making theiww breakthrough, they have done whatever has been necessary to acquire whomever they require to rectify whatever glitches are perceived at a given time.

Witness how John Stones and Ruben Diaz came in when Vincent Kompany departed, Jack Grealish arrived after David Silva left, Erling Haaland fulfilled the Sergio Aguero role and bolstered it immeasurably and, going by early season evidence, Matteo Kovacic has slipped seemlessly into the Ilkay Gundogan role.

However, to this observer, the greatest doff of the cap there could be to the management of Man City – on and off the field – is the reality that nothing seems to throw them off stride. Exhibit A? The circumstances which led to the ‘Agueeerrrooo’ moment. But even since that, the departures of Kompany and Silva and Aguero and, this week, playing three games in eight days, Erling Haaland actually looking human and losing Kevin De Bruyne for at least four months, they just carry on regardless.

Yes, you can say they’re professionals and no doubt talk of gargantuan sums of money could be wheeled out too. But in this day and age no club has worries on that front.

What sets City apart is knowing what they need, what they have and how best to ust it.

Leave a Reply