WHEN it was less fashionable to follow Armagh teams in the era before the glorious campaign of 2002, a group of dedicated Orchard County fans made the trip to Charlestown in County Mayo for a league game.
The first figure to greet the travelling band who had heartily dismounted from their bus was Kerry legend Jack O’Sé who was Mayo manager at the time.
Jacko, who was delighted to see Armagh supporters make such a long journey as he emerged from a local hotel where his players had been served breakfast, was asked how things were between himself and the Mayo fans.
He remarked: “To be honest, I am only as good as my last game so it doesn’t matter how many All-Ireland medals you have won, the Mayo supporters are only interested in how their team perform.”
O’Sé, who parted company with the Westerners later that year with little success, runs a plumbing business in Leixlip in County Kildare, but he never succeeded in management to the extent he did as a player.
With Armagh’s vogue period, in some people’s opinions, now at an end, the natural evolution sees the focus returning to club matters where managers could stress just as easily that they too are only as good as their last game.
With managers scrutinised like never before, they find themselves continuously having to look to more revolutionary and modern methods in an attempt to impress players, a lot of whom have become more proactive in modern techniques and strategies.
On the local front, for one reason or another, four out of the seven clubs from the greater Lurgan area will have a different management team in place for the new season than started the 2011 campaign.
Wolfe Tones, with Jim Robinson and Conor McCarron in charge, will be keen to maintain the status quo as the ‘Cash men attempt to consolidate their top flight status.
Sarsfields boss Gerard Skelton, who last season attempted to steer the ship without a full time coaching assistant, will be buoyed in the knowledge that Kieran Robinson, who also has duties with the Armagh Under 21s this season, will be spending a lot more time with the Hoops in a trainer’s capacity.
Double winners Éire Óg have real strength moving forward with both Mickey Devlin and Oliver Cormican at the helm whose joint approach has revolutionised several structures at the Pinebank club.
Clan na Gael, St Peter’s, St Paul’s and Clann Éireann all saw a measure of upheaval in 2011.
At the Shore Road, Shane McConville stepped down in mid season to allow James Byrne to take charge for the remainder of the year.
Clan na Gael, despite showing a lot of promise particularly from some of their younger players, will possibly need a new start in 2012.
St Peter’s managers Collie Keegan and Gerard Doran, who left their posts due to other commitments, can relax in the knowledge that Peter McVeigh, who had been on board during their spell in charge, will take up the challenge with renewed vigour.
As for St. Paul’s, the Taghnevan club lost two good men in 2011 when Finty McConville and Kevin O’Hagan left the posts which they had initially approached in an enthusiastic fashion.
So has the time come to give club managers a break, or should their every move be analysed and scrutinised by their club’s supporters and players?
Last season several local clubs succeeded in winning silverware or gaining promotion, but 2012 will be an even tougher challenge for newly appointed managers who deserve to be given time to adapt.
Here are the ‘Mail’s’ tips for a successful relationship between players, supporters and club managers:
Don’t make promises you can’t keep - managers who make promises, later broken, will always fall out of favour with players who will remember even the slightest thing in a moment of frustration and use it to their advantage. Far better to say ‘I’ll try’ than ‘I will’ where individual relationships are involved.
Keep socialising with players to a minimum - continuously socialising with players can be disastrous for managers and should be kept to a minimum with the notion that ‘good fences make good neighbours’ being kept in mind.
Ask county players to leave their Armagh jacket at the gate - metaphorically speaking, this idea is essential to the success of club footballers.
It should be a privilege and an honour for every club player to represent their county, but a period with a county side does not always have a positive effect on a club player, particularly at a young age.
Any club manager worth his salt should be advising a county boss that their players should be selected on their performances for their clubs and not on reputation.
Never get a player’s name wrong - newly appointed club managers should study a team photo from the previous year and learn all the player names before the first training session takes place. Players hate the notion that managers have not taken the effort to find out who they are before attempting to put a successful squad together.
Ask supporters not to shout tactical changes from the sidelines - In control managers should always remind fans of who is in charge of the team.
Many fans attempt to influence players during a match with their own angle on tactics, for example, shouting ‘get it in’ when the players have been instructed to hold the ball.
There are many other instances where players become confused with varying instructions during a game. Whilst supporters have a role to play, some tactics need a degree of patience for successful implementation, and remember, the man ‘behind the wire’ will not lose sleep, the manager will.
Always seek proper advice - managers who are unwilling to seek advice from other sources are almost always doomed to failure. Successful team bosses need advice on an ongoing basis and they should always be prepared to learn.
Plan your season - taking one game at a time does not work and stifles ambition. A clearly defined approach should be taken at the start of the season and adhered to under all circumstances.
Ask players to take responsibility for their actions - it is often said that players win games and managers lose them but a good manager will ask his players to take responsibility for their own actions, and properly evaluate how they have contributed during games. Players who are honest with themselves will be less selfish and have a better team mentality.
Ask senior players to attend underage functions - it was surprising to see how few senior players attend their club’s underage awards nights.
Senior managers should co-ordinate with their respective committees to ensure that their players’ attendance is guaranteed at such functions.
This can give the young players a greater sense of belonging and a close up view of what they are aiming to be.