No fear of Trap in cosy dressing room after FAI swerved sacking
Mind you we’ve been here before, pondering the possibility of the manager getting the elbow: but things have changed fundamentally since that Greece game.
It was instructive during the interim to read Alex Ferguson’s Harvard lecture about management. He basically cut through the corporate-speak, human-resource jargon to say it all comes down to control: “If anyone steps out of my control, that’s them dead.”
In print, it’s stark enough. With a Glasgow accent, it becomes more than a bit scary. But that’s the point, maybe even a reason Scots have dominated the management game for decades: because control comes down to fear.
That mightn’t feature too highly in any Harvard textbook, but there ain’t a shop floor in the world that doesn’t recognise its truth. And in ego-driven, financially flush football dressing rooms it is especially accurate.
History is littered with tales of players who personally despised their manager but still professionally performed because they were afraid of the repercussions of not doing so.
Mostly that was due to a potential impact to their wallet. Eye-watering salaries for even ordinary talents these days make that less of a priority, especially when it comes to international football, an obvious contributory factor to somebody like Darron Gibson flouncing off in a pouty sulk at not getting his game.
But there remains enough of the old dynamic to ensure players play ball with a manager who’s obviously in charge. Except with Ireland the dynamic has changed.
Apparently, no one was more surprised than Trap that he held on to his gig last autumn. And he did so primarily because the players backed him. He was also memorably treated to a lecture from John Delaney on the importance of going to more league matches in England.
Trap, understandably, insists it all means there is no diminution to his authority – but who’re we kidding?
Where’s the dressing-room fear going to be for a man whose job you preserved? Established players who in many cases owe their international careers to the Italian are now even more cosy-wosy, something rising up-and-comers must realise, and surely resent. And who’s going to inform Delaney it might not be his place to deliver a legend of the game a few more suggestions in the future?
No, things have changed alright. Trap can’t control anyone’s betting habits, or headlines, or indeed undue expectations. But he has to be able to control the players, and the environment around him.
And right now the fear must be gnawing at him that no one is quite afraid enough anymore.