Roddy Collins, Sing Us A Song

Over the next little while, I’m going to be posting up a few of the articles that I have previously written for the website Lovely Left Foot, which is currently undergoing a hiatus of sorts. They may eventually be hosted on LLF again someday, but for now I felt that they were good enough examples of my writing that they should be up somewhere.

The original publication date for this piece was May 4th 2012.

In 2000/01, Roddy Collins had taken a team that was fighting relegation three years previously and won an Irish league and cup double with them.

12 years later, he has gone through six managerial jobs, currently leads the club rock-bottom of the Premier Division and has become one of the most divisive, oft hated figures in Irish football. What are Roddy Collins’ problems?

There are three. A simple lack of lasting managerial talent, a truly atrocious record of relationships with boardrooms, and a lack of integrity and loyalty to the clubs he has managed.

On the first count, as a manager, he seems to have peaked way too early. His success at Bohemians in only the second managerial job of his career was extraordinary, as the club went from fighting the drop to double winners in just three years. His European success was noteworthy for the Irish game as the Gypsies beat Hibernian and came within a goal of beating Kaiserslautern in the UEFA Cup. Such results seem to be exactly what makes Collins such an attractive proposition in the eyes of other clubs, from Carlisle to Monaghan.

But the repetition elsewhere has not come. The factors that helped Collins to success at his first club are hard to find. Was it simply the right squad, which just needed the right push, which could have come from anyone? Was it more due to the right set of results elsewhere, as in the last day of the 00-01 season? Was it a season with a degree of plain old blind luck?

Frankly, I would say it was a combination of all those things. Collins has had access to better resources at other clubs since his time at Bohemians and has been completely unable to do the same thing again. At Bohs he was able to find and bring in several players of great quality – Kevin Hunt for example – but this scouting touch seems to have disappeared for the most part since.

Collins’ failures since his acrimonious departure from Dalymount are plain to see. Shall we count the ways?

Carlisle: In three years, he never got them out of relegation trouble.

Dublin City: Quit the club after just five months when they were facing a relegation battle in the final games of the season. Immediately walked into a job with…

Shamrock Rovers: Financial issues played a part, but Collins oversaw the only relegation Ireland’s most successful club ever suffered.

Floriana: Four years later, he managed a Maltese team for six months. Again, quit after little achievement for a better job with…

Cork City: Unluckily for Collins the club went belly-up two months into his tenure. The new, fan owned, version did not require his service.

Monaghan: Current club. He won promotion from the First Division with them via play-offs (against the god-awful, now extinct, Galway United) last season. Currently rock bottom of the Premier Division, having taken five points from a possible 27.

With such a record it might well be asked, just why does Collins keep getting a job? Well, maybe clubs keep hoping they’re hiring the man who won a double with Bohemians. But the simple facts are that Collins has not shown himself to be a successful manager post 2001 in any way, shape or form. He has had bad clubs and good clubs in which to prove himself again. He has not been able to do so. Perhaps his miraculous success in finding employment is indicative of the lack of diversity in the Irish managerial pool.

The second problem is Collins’ relationship with boards and club administration. He has consistently clashed with the owners of clubs, and has never seemed to have a relationship with them that could be described as, in any way, positive. He was publically critical of the Bohemians administration. His off-field machinations in the attempted sale of Carlisle got him sacked before he was re-hired. He sued Shamrock Rovers for wrongful dismissal even though they were relegated on his watch. He quit Dublin City and Floriana with little notice and seemingly little thought.

This sort of behaviour, whether it is a result of ego, immaturity, or a simple inability to work well under others, is a disastrous trait for a football manager to have. Collins has, on several occasions, seemed completely incapable of engaging with boardroom members or chairmen on a productive level. Worse than that, such disputes have been dragged into the light of day, further damaging Collins’ reputation. Openly fighting with bosses does not a happy football club make, and can all too easily have an effect on the playing fortunes of the team.

The third problem is the simple lack of loyalty or commitment to several clubs. It was first displayed at Bohemians when he treated the attempts to keep him employed with a sort of contempt. It continued at Dublin City when he undertook to leave the club in the lurch on his own accord. Did I mention that the outfit he left to join, Shamrock Rovers, were a team Dublin City still had to play that season? It is difficult to defend such actions. In that little spat, it was Dublin City who got the last laugh: it was they who defeated Rovers in a promotion/relegation play-off the following season, Collins’ last games in charge.

And the process was repeated a few years later when he made the bizarre decision to manage a club in Malta. Six months later, he quit. Perhaps the weather didn’t agree with him. Or maybe it was the offer to come home and manage Irish Premier League club Cork instead. Too bad they went bust before he got to manage a game.

Collins’ has a track record of disloyalty to clubs, and constantly seems to think the grass is greener elsewhere. Unfortunately for him, in the case of nominal trade-ups like Shamrock Rovers and Cork City, it hasn’t really worked out. Some would say that is just desserts. However you feel, the extremely bad reputation that Collins’ has throughout the League of Ireland mainly stems from the very public indications of a lack of integrity: Bohemians, who he seemed to almost goad into sacking him, and Dublin City, whom he treated disgracefully, are the main examples. Suing clubs that he failed to do well at when they dismiss him is another.

The video that did the rounds last week, where Collins starts singing in response to a question about the possibility of relegation for Monaghan, was a cue for much hilarity, but I see it as an indicator of deeper problems. Collins is literally laughing off the terrible position his team is currently in, treating their form and prospects with a casualness and satirical attitude that is startling. The week after that video was made, Monaghan lost at home and Collins was sent to the stands for arguing with the fourth official. By any reasonable thought process, “Mons” may well be facing into a return to the bottom tier of Irish football, making Collins’ antics less amusing for the supporters of the northern club.

In the event of that happening, one could be forgiven for thinking that Collins would have trouble finding another job. But this is Ireland, where he may have been a target for the current league leaders as late as a few months ago.

Why? I can’t tell you. Clubs seem to keep banking on the 2001 figurehead leading them to glory. But I’m not sure that man exists anymore.

Addendum 18/11/2013: Shortly after publication of this piece, Monaghan United withdrew from the League of Ireland totally over financial issues, failing to finish the season barely months after promotion, leading to Collins’ release. Collins later found a job with First Division Athlone, whom he led to promotion this year. It should be noted of course that the standard of the lower tier was incredible poor, with only eight teams and many of those uncompetitive, but Collins has a track record in that division with Monaghan.

But any kudos he may have garnered have disappeared after the usual signs of the Roddy Collins managerial implosion: disputes with the board and fairly transparent applications to be appointed the manager of a “better” club, in this case Derry City, barely weeks after winning promotion. Collins is no longer the manager of Athlone Town, who are moving forward with Mick Cooke in charge, bringing to five (Dublin City, Shamrock Rovers, Floriana, Cork City being the others), the number of clubs Collins has managed for a year or less (out of nine).

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