Infamy, infamy, they’ve all got it in for me! In the case of Julius Caesar he was right, they did have it in for him. In the psychological battle that is an ever increasingly integral part of modern sport, managers and coaches often seek to create a siege mentality in an effort to bond and inspire their players and exert even more of an effort from them on the field of play.
Foolish displays of hubris from the opposition that appear in the press are seized upon by managers as an insult, a slight or a patronising put down. Clippings are copied, blown up and hung on dressing room walls. Every dubious decision is latched onto as a conspiracy against your poor little team.
The now retired Sir Alex Ferguson was a past master at this. Subtly suggesting that teams try harder against Manchester United than they do against their direct rivals. Such a tactic was employed to precipitate the infamous Kevin Keegan meltdown in 1996. The FA, referees and even the computer that compiles the fixtures were accused of having an anti- United bias.
Jose Mourinho is another of the masters in creating a siege mentality. Mourinho’s expensively created team were the victims of conspiracies on every front. He famously accused Anders Frisk of conspiring with Barcelona manager Frank Rijkaard to knock his Chelsea team out of the Champions league in 2005 when the referee sent off Didier Drogba. Such was the commotion caused by Mourinho’s tactics that Frisk and his family received death threats from some of Chelsea’s more impressionable and reactionary fans.
This weekend, Davy Fitzgerald faced the press after the All Ireland final draw against Cork and did his level best to elude to a conspiracy against the ‘little fish’ of Clare. Decisions went against his boys, Cork were ‘presented’ with chances and little Clare have to deal with the added pressure of an u21 final next week. While there is no doubt a couple of decisions went against Clare, Shane O’Neill’s escape with a yellow following the decision to raise a hurl to the head of Darach Honan the most prominent, nobody watching the match could say the referee favoured the rebels. Clare even benefitted from an extra 30 seconds to secure the replay.
Davy Fitzgerald certainly is the closest thing the GAA has to Marmite but there is no doubt he has brought this talented pool of players together into a tight unit who have faith in their ability and an admirable resolve that belies their youth and inexperience. One can only hope the exerts of the u21 final does not have too much of a bearing on the outcome of the replay, if it does lets hope that Davy displays a more magnanimous attitude in the aftermath.