As an outsider looking in to the current Joey Barton fiasco that is going on at Rangers, I think the playing days of Joey at the club appear to be numbered. Reading all about it got me thinking about similar situations I have found myself in and the various ways of dealing with players being disruptive and having a negative influence over your squad.
I think to be able to relate to the situation then we must first assume that Barton has either spoken out against the Manager in open forum or said something so bad that he has left Mark Warburton with no option but to suspend him pending further punishment.
Most of us in amateur football management have had to deal with a player who’s ego vastly exaggerates his playing ability as it does with Mr Barton. The player who has to be the focus of attention every week who doesn’t really bother that the team dropped points because he scored a goal or pulled off a few nutmegs. Generally we only put up with these players because they are an individual who can change a game with a bit of magic or class when they are in the mood.
Similar to Bartons heavy use of Twitter and regular contributions on TalkSport where he has expressed his feelings of being correct (in his mind) but having not expressed his feelings in the proper manner, I have had dealings in the not too distant past with amateur players who questioned my decisions or playing style and goaded or mocked the opposition on their own social media or the forum of the squad whatsapp group chat. I should add that this is safe in the knowledge that I would see these displays of dissatisfaction and attention seeking. I agree that people’s opinions are there entitlement but as a team mate there are lines that should not be crossed. I am safely old enough to remember amateur football before social media and (whisper it) before mobile phones. I can even remember in my early days having to phone players at the house! This new age has given people with their own strong opinions a forum to say what they feel in seconds without really considering what they are saying or the consequences it will have. Once you tweet or Facebook something it is out there and if it’s bad you can bet it will be screenshot by someone and kept for everyone concerned to see. Rightfully our governing authorities have included rules for abuse by our members on social media but it is up to each individual manager to Police his own players regarding speaking out against the manager, other players and other clubs.
Harking back to Joey Barton, how much egg did he have to wipe on his face after goading Scott Brown and Brendan Rodgers before the match a few weeks ago. I’ve had players in my group do that with my club before and I’ve also had it done to me. It did nothing other than to add much more to my motivation to win.
It is not just social media use or misuse that gets players into trouble. I learned very quickly that failing to deal with a disruptive influence in your team can have severe consequences. Most importantly you would begin to lose the respect of your players which in turn results in losing the whole dressing room. Reflecting back I have had heated arguments at training sessions and during games with disruptive players who have disagreed with me. The important thing for me is to never get into an argument with a player if there is a chance he is right. There is nothing wrong with openly saying to a player that you take on board what he says and you will discuss it later in private. Once you get into an argument then you both lose. The player because he will now have to be brought down a peg and disciplined and you as the manager because you have been undermined in front of other players.
Ive often found that dropping players when it gets to this stage doesn’t tend to work. It just makes a bad situation worse. On one occasion I met the player away from football and we had a good chat and got everything out that we had to say. We both felt good and moved on from it and had a bit of success together. There are others I’ve had similar situations with though who I’ve had to release in the end. With some people they will always have a bad taste in their mouth after being told they are in the wrong and after strong words there is no going back.
I have never got to the stage where I have been in a fight wth any of my players but I have come close once. Luckily my Captain stepped in to pull us apart before it got messy. Looking back now I am glad it wasn’t allowed to escalate but it did have an affect on the players for a few weeks. Not only is it unprofessional but it is a shocking example to set to your squad. Once you lose control of your temper then you lose control of your team.
If my advice was any worth to Mark Warburton then I’d say stick by your principles and do what is best for the sake of the team. No player is ever bigger than any of our clubs.
It’s good to be back!