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The OTB podcast network IT Football on off the ball with Paddy Power, less flashy than a yawn club smile, but just as effective responsibly. S.W. Matt. So Keltic last night, so their earliest exit from the Champions League for 15 years, beaten to one by Ferrick Faris in Glasgow. We're going to talk to Tom English, the chief sportswriter at BBC Scotland, in just a moment about what it means for new Lennon and for Celtic over the coming season.
But first, let's hear from the Celtic manager, Neil Lennon, and what he had to say after last night's defeat.
That's just the basic mistake. I'm sick of seeing, you know, and basic defensive mistakes. We did the same against Copenhagen on top. Sometimes you can't legislate for that isn't the right position to deal with. And he doesn't. And we get punished for it. But in the final third, we should have been better as well because we had so many opportunities to score. And it's a difficult one to take. It's very early in the season you have to pick up, which I'm sure is a hot dressing room at the moment for what is a big season ahead.
The players need to, you know, buckle up. You know, they've been OK, you know, and some of the attitude has to be better. You know, they want to come and want to play for the club and then just attack them a little bit of malice sometimes among them. And, you know, sometimes they're not as good as what they are, you know.
So we have to, you know, analyse where we went wrong and then make a decision to remember all those players who, you know, may want to leave and admit that, you know, over the past six months or so. And so they don't want to be here. And we'll see.
Some of it is that players that have come to you openly and say, I would like to move elsewhere. The players, you're happy to leave if the circumstances are right.
Not really. If they make and we have to leave the club, then obviously not committed and all players are committed to the club.
Yeah, that is Neil Lennon with some pretty harsh words for his players after last night's Champions League exit, Celtic now drop down to Europa League third qualifying round the draw for that takes place on Tuesday. Tom English from BBC Scotland is with us. Evening, Tom. Hi, Nathan. How big a disaster is this? It's a familiar disaster, Nathan. You know, we've been in this movie before. It felt like we were with we were with them last season when they blew a brilliant chance against Copenhagen in the Europa League earlier in the season.
Last season blew another great opportunity against Kluge, exited the Champions League in the season before that AEK, Athens, when Brendan Rodgers was the manager, exited the Champions League again cheaply. So this is nothing new. Neil Lennon blasts is nothing new. We've seen them. It is time itself. I don't know how many times we've seen it. And it's like, honestly, I went back last night when I came back from the match, I went back and I saw what he said after the Kluge exit and the Copenhagen exit.
And it's almost all parts of his analysis are word for word. It's it's extraordinary. So the same it's the same story, the same mistakes. And most of them center around his defense. You just cannot cannot at this level get his defense right.
The manager may at times try and shift the blame both. The book is always going to stop with Neil Lennon for this.
Was he right, though, to blast his players? Should he have expected a lot more from his players? Because watching that second half last night, they were atrocious. It was a shocking game of football, not helped by the fact that in an empty stadium. But you're looking at that Celtic team and thinking, jeez, where does the talent come from? Where does the improvement come from? Is there more quality there than they showed last night?
There is because Edwards wasn't playing and he's their best player forwards wasn't put off the players that started last night, should they have been able to beat that team?
Yeah, well, this is this is a contentious issue, right, because he started with Ryan Christie as a center forward. Ron Christie is an attacking midfielder. He's not a centerfold. He had two strikers on his bench as yet. He has just arrived from West Ham. Not much yet. Fair enough. He was kicking his heels for much of last season, but than time. And they had Komala, who arrived last January, has played eight games, started one.
He was described also by Neil Lennon as not much fit. Now, that doesn't make much sense because Tomala had a full pre-season. He was praised in July and in the preseason friendlies he scored on the opening day of the league season against Hamilton. And now we're told he's not much fit. And I suspect that maybe Neil Leonard thinks he's just not good enough and has maybe covering up. So he had two strikers that he could have easily brought to the club and a total of about eight million, nine million.
He didn't use either of them from the start. He went with central midfielder and when he was desperate for a goal, he brought his yeti on their own. But he was absolutely desperate for a goal. In the last few minutes, he kept Kanala Tallish international striker on the bench and he moved Christopher Julian up front to center, have big tall center half to try and scramble a goal. I mean, there was I mean, there was panic stations at that point.
So it's all it's all very well for Neil. And I'm a big fan and Neil Lennon, but he has to take he has to take a lot of responsibility for this. He brought a lot of these players at the club. He said to have Julian and I are really poor. His fullback, al-Hamad, sold the winning goal completely horrendous, defended by Julian and Igher. They like to think of themselves as ball playing centre hands. I think maybe they have an idea that they are Franz Beckenbauer of the modern generation.
There isn't there isn't a lot of grunt in that in that defense. It's why Lennon wants to bring in Shane Duffy. There's not a lot of natural guys who are happy defending, and that's fine at Scottish Premiership level, because if you create 100 chances and then score eventually, most of the time in Europe, they get cut out because they're defending time and time again. They're defending is nowhere near good enough. The easy argument then to defend Seljuk in this scenario is that they do have it too easy in Scotland and that that gap, when they get to these European games, even against Ferring virus from Hungary, is too much for them, that it's too much of a shock to the system.
Is that any excuse?
No, no, it's not, because it's too easy for you might say it's too easy for them, but that's the way they want us. That's the way they love it. I mean, because they're guaranteed for the last nine seasons have been guaranteed more or less a passage into the Champions League qualifiers that have made an awful lot of money because the Scottish League is weak. That's exactly how they want it. So they can say, oh, we don't have enough competition domestically.
I mean, you can't have it both ways. So it's it's a big problem for them. But they had a lot of chances last night and they didn't score. And Farage, France had two moments. I wouldn't even call them chances there two moments. And they scored from both of them and certainly got suckered again. And, you know, there isn't. At that level, this happens repeatedly, there isn't a lot there isn't sufficient hunger from these players and, you know, we could maybe I suppose everybody in the media over here as well is culpable in this, because what's going to happen now is that something will probably domestically go on a winning run and they'll batter sentiment and they'll batter Ross County and they'll batter some other team that has a fraction of their budget and have will say, oh, look at this Celtic win in four and five and six.
Fantastic ten in a row, historic Celtic. And these players, I think, have become used to being praised overpraised for beating opposition that they should always be domestically. When they get to it, they get to a level against playing against foreign nationals who are decent side, but nothing more. But what they were was very well-organized and really committed. And Piercey on the counterattack. They're not they're not mentally tuned in to a game like that because they don't get it all their own way this night.
Last week we actually had Neil Lennon on the show for a good chunk of the evening. And some of it was some of that lovely nostalgia that they love with Chris Sutton and Liam Petrov and reminiscing on the Martin Onelia in 2003, but also our own. She and my colleagues spent about twenty five minutes, half an hour just talking about current Celtic and his management style and how it's changed since the last time and how it's even changed since the modern era and that you can't blast players anymore, that you have to cajole them along, that you can't corner someone in a dressing room and rip into them.
But that doesn't work for the modern player. You have to have that more softer touch. What he was saying last week seems at slight odds with what he's been saying publicly over the past 24 hours.
Yeah, yeah. And also listen to what he said on Saturday after they scraped a one nil against Dundee United, was at odds with what he was saying last night. On Saturday, he praised his players for being tremendous and outstanding. Their attitude was outstanding. He said last night some of the players want to leave, not good enough to come. And they're looking for a move and they're making waves to exit the club. They've been doing this for six months.
This has dogged him for a long time, he said. Those two statements don't necessarily add up, you know, and a lot of people over here are confused. Now, who is he talking about? The. And B, if players genuinely are coming to say, we want to leave the club, why is he playing them? Why is he playing them? Is he in total control of transverse? I'm not sure, I'm not sure maybe clopping on that the real celebrated managers in control, I wouldn't say he's in control.
Brendan Rodgers wasn't in total control of of transfers itself. I think I think it's a cumulative effort. I don't think he would have any issue with the way that was set up. Peter Lawwell, the chief executives, is very, very powerful because he's very experienced. And I think Neil Lennon does does lean on Peter Lawwell to get those deals done. So I don't think that's I don't think that could be put forward as an excuse that players are being brought in against his will.
This will be the third straight season then that Celtic don't make the group stage of the Champions League. And I don't know what the position to win in Europe, whether they're banking and budgeting or making the group stage. Obviously, it's a huge bonus if you get there. What sort of damage does it do in terms of. Well, bringing in Shane Duffy and we Graeme Potter on the show earlier, who was quite coy on it. But all the speculation is that he may end up there in terms of what Lennon wants to do on this drive for the 10 in a row financially.
How damaging is this for the club?
It's major damage. I mean, it's twofold, right? So Celtic because and we've spoken about this in the program before because of nineteen sixty seven Celtic will forever and a day see themselves as a as a as a European Cup Champions League team, huge club, massive infrastructure, massive fan base, great history and all the rest of it. They will not let that go. They will never let that go. Excuse me, but you look at the opposition they're losing to nowadays, E.K. Kluge, Copenhagen, French Farrows.
Occasionally there's a there's a real high as there was last season when they beat Latza home and away. But it's it's a steady decline now. And that is that cuts to the heart of what Celtic House-hunting like to see themselves as a as a team with European relevance. So this is an embarrassment for them on that score. And also financially, it's 30 million plus down to Swane in a season.
Crowds are a full house. Absolutely.
Yeah. This year of all years, they needed that money. They don't budget for it. But I think Peter Lawwell would have fantasized about what that money could do to replenish the cash reserves that have been emptied almost during these months of no football, no crowds, just horrendous damage done to all clubs.
But Celtic had a huge wage bill. I mean, a huge for Scottish football club, massive wage bill. So they have been hemorrhaging money. They kind of needed that 30 million, 40 million, whatever it might be. And they're not get it. And there was a scene last night when when when the whistle went to Peter. Not given to. Public shows of kind of emotion just put his head in his hands and that's all Janet was captured by photographers that told you something about the pain of that defeat.
And it's so unnecessary. I mean, there should be. But I know it's a kind of an easy thing to say. They should be beaten for as far as. But really there at all. Our budget outstrips transparency's. And that's a game Celltex should win, had a lot of chances and didn't get it done, and they got soccer, they got soccer because they're just weak at the back. And Profligates up front on Peter Lolas response then and his head in his hands.
It's incredible how quickly football moves, because seven days ago we're talking to Neil Lennon and they're fresh from a six million in the first qualifying round against Reykjavik. And all the talk is 10 year old, 10 year old, 10 in a row. European football was even touched on its importance because this season all that matters for Celtic is 10 in a row. Ah, so we thought until today when it feels as though they're in full blown crisis and it feels as though there are questions about Neil Lennon's future.
Are there legitimate questions about whether he will be the man to lead them into the ten in a row because of this defeat?
Yeah, I've heard that from from various places today. It's a lot of fans, kind of disaffected fans. I've heard this before. I thought Neil Lennon, I've heard it numerous times about Neil Lennon like this is this is what happens. They have a they have a European obsession. Neil Lennon gets it in the neck, players get it in the neck, Peter Lawwell is ordered by an angry fanbase to get more players in. And there's a hubbub for about a week until Celtic go out and they put five on somebody and then they put another four or five on somebody the following week.
And then Celtic become this fan base becomes incredibly parochial. And this is part of the problem, this obsession with the 10 in a row. I get it. But I think they've been singing about 10 in a row for about five years and now what they'll do is they'll just retreat into this parochial world of Scottish football where nothing else matters by 10 in a row by doing this. And I'm hearing from some of my Celtic supporting friends today that they wish they were up, knocked out of the Europa League.
Now, you know, they're in the qualifying rounds of the Europa League. They wish to get knocked out so they could focus on securing the 10 in a row. And this is this is the default. And I bet you if they do the 10 year old and if they win another treble last night will be the irrelevance that Copenhagen became, that Kluge became, that AK Athens became.
And that is part of the issue here, the battle for the ten in a row then, but will ultimately be between Celtic and Rangers. You expect the trump card, the cell to carve is than Edward and his goalscoring power. And the Lennon may well point his absence last night and feel like he was setting aside one arm tied behind the back because he is their number one, their main man. I think it's 11 European goals over the last couple of seasons.
The word was that he had a niggle. It is the truth that he had an ego.
Are there concerns actually maybe that maybe he doesn't bounciness? So this is this is one of football's greatest goldfish bowls and nobody takes anything at face value after a result like this. So what might be a legitimate niggle has now turned into Edward not wanting to play because he wants to move. So the honest answer is, I don't know what the truth is here. Right. I know that Edward has been scrupulously honest, player, hungry player, passionate, terrific footballer.
I haven't seen a scintilla of that kind of. Unprofessionalism, if you like, from him in his time at Celtic, so I'm minded to believe that he had that he had an ego. But what I'm also minded to believe is that if he was to go to Celtic now and say, look, my time is done here, we're out of the Champions League, I feel I need to move on. That I don't think he could be faulted for that, because I think he is good enough to play at a higher level and maybe the time is right.
You know, he's done it is done terrific work at Celtic. But does he really want to be like, you know, the tenderise massive fans, the Celtic fans just tend to really matter to us. And Edward, not really. He talks it up tender or they all do. They after. But does it really matter to him or would you like to make a move to pastures new, more glamorous league? I wouldn't be surprised now if that became a narrative of this season.
You spend your life, a good chunk of it, covering this league. So it's in your interest to be interested in it and to want it to be as successful as possible. But you're really offering virus in Copenhagen and clue you can go down through the years. And these embarrassing, humiliating defeats at some stage are not just the reality. Do they stop being embarrassing and humiliating? And actually you're all just going to have to accept this is Celltex level.
This is rangers' level that. All right, they should be very embarrassed, but actually there's not much between them. Not absolutely, yeah, and that's that truth drops very slowly.
You know, Scottish football is is is it's kind of got a split personality and it's constantly beating itself up. But at the same time, and this is kind of weird, it would always expect A to be the first trials or a Copenhagen occlusion, a.k.a. Athens. It doesn't make any sense. But there you go. And that is that is their level. In fact, you could say it's it's it's not their level because they're not they're not good enough.
But at the same time, you know, Celltex, they go out and they beat Nazia Holman away last season in the Europa League. Now, they were and they were good value both times.
They deserved to win. It wasn't a smash and grab. They deserved to win both of those games.
And Ryan did well in Europe as well last season for Rangers.
Rangers beat Porto there. Some terrific results in Europe so they can do it, but they are also prone to falling over themselves. And so as far as last night, the OC, there was no fans in the stadium that probably helped them, but they weren't afraid of it, you know, and they weren't.
Because if you look at it, you know, we talk about all the great European nights at Celtic Park with fans, Farinelli, but a lot of these great European nights at Celtic Park and and Celtic losing, you know, the record there isn't a stellar nowhere near as stellar as people like to think it is.
So there they are on a spiral here where we are five, six, seven years ago, they were losing in the Champions League one, five, six, seven years ago, maybe more to a beat in Barcelona. They beat Barcelona at home. They had a heroic performance at Camp New and last two won about four or five minutes into injury time in a Champions League game. They beat I actually beat AC Milan. Go back a little bit now.
Certainly in my time in Scotland, I buy all these games and united further back understand distraction. But now they're losing to a level of opposition that is way below. That way below. So it's and it is it's part financial, but it is also part it's a kick to the solar plexus of every Celtic fan who who I know. I'll repeat myself. But you can't you can't stress this enough. Europe is massive to them. Winning the tender is huge.
But Europe is also in because of the Lisbon Lions and it's never coming out. So this is painful, painful for them to see them losing against this opposition. And when they do, the manager normally and the team reap the whirlwind. That's what's happening right now.
All right, Tom, great stuff. Thanks as always for joining us. Pleasure. Good. Positive. Yeah. Great film. Great after that. Not for the night when you introduce me next time.
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Quick break it. Football's off the ball with Paddy Power less flashy than a European club smile, but just as effective responsibly CWG doesn't. People come along to the football show, I'm delighted to be joined on the line by the Brighton manager, Graeme Potter. How are you keeping Graeme? I'm very well, thank you. Thanks a lot for talking to us. It's a busy time, a pre-season like no other. And also, right in the middle of the transfer window, I've been looking at some gossip columns that it turns out, Graeme, you've got too many good center halves.
Is this a time of the year you enjoy the sort of football manager time of the year, the wheeling and dealing, or do you like to leave all that to somebody else? My role as the head coach, so that gives you a clue, I think, thankfully we've got a good a good club, a club with a leadership above me in terms of Ashworth and Tony Bloom and Paul Barber. And there's a recruitment team and yeah, there's a of people involved in that.
So I don't have to waste time speaking with agents and clubs and negotiating things I in the group that we have and try to help them improve and develop the team. Your background is obviously interesting in that you had a good successful football career played at a level for a decade. But then you go off to educate yourself. You go to Sweden to have this brilliant success that ostracods everyone knows a lower tier team, bring them to the top flight, bring them to the Europa League.
These memorable victories over Galatasaray, you win at the Emirates. So there's a lot there in the background. What is the part of being a football manager then that you most enjoy of being that head coach? What is the part that really gets you out of bed every morning? I think it's the bit about help in helping players improve, taking players from one level and trying to get them to the next the next make a difference in somebody's life. I think that's fundamentally what I started out to try to think about doing.
And then it was about trying to educate myself or prepare myself or do as well as I can to to make sure I can do that. I understand about how an environment can help and try to create that place where people feel comfortable. They feel that they can be part of something and feel that they are improving. That's the that's what I started on this path for. And of course, you need football results as well to to keep you in the job and to keep that journey going.
But but for me, the most important thing is, is the process behind how you get the results and working with working with people.
Is it difficult to keep on that track within that process when you talk about results? Because particularly when you're in the Premier League and the maybe it's an old school attitude, but the attitude is still there. Results are everything. So it's all very well saying you want to help players progress, you want to make them better individuals. If you're not getting the results on a Saturday, nobody really cares about the other stuff. Is that difficult for you personally when you're thinking about what you want to achieve as a person and as a coach?
Is it hard to remember those philosophies when it is so results driven?
I think I think so. I think you have to acknowledge it's a challenge because that's the bubble we're in.
And and as you go higher, the noise becomes louder.
But. Fundamentally, if you just focus on results and you neglect the people, then there's no guarantees that you're going to get the results that you're going to keep in the job. So you lose twice. So ultimately, I think you've got to understand that, of course, you need results. You need to get points. You need to win a competition. And if you don't get those, then then like you say, you can talk all you want about development.
You're not going to stay there very long. But yeah, but at the same time, I think you have to build teams. You have to make a difference to the people that you're working with. You have to build relationships. You have to get them onside.
You have to have something a bit deeper than a football resort because all you can do everything and you can still lose. So actually, if you brought in the Premier League, it's not so simple. It's not so easy. Teams have good, good players and coaches and the competition is fierce.
So if you're just as a human being, if you're just hanging on the football results to get your satisfaction in life, then I think it's a short lived experience.
I imagine in your years as a pro, you saw a lot of people and worked under a lot of people who were like that. So whose entire mood for the week probably was dictated by what happened on the Saturday afternoon where you don't need to name names. But was it almost seeing those individuals and how their life was that you wanted to steer away from that? To a certain extent? Yeah, I think so. I mean, that's why football is so it's so brilliant.
It's so because it's so hard to get results. It's so hard to win. It's the margins are so small that sometimes you can do a lot of things well and and lose and sometimes you can do things wrong and win the game.
And the key thing is not to think that you're so good if you win to and to not to beat yourself up so much if you don't win, to try to keep as level as you can and think about how can I improve the players? I can improve the team. Because ultimately, if you if you can stay consistent with that, you might be able to ride out the challenges of the variance of football.
I mentioned your education and people to be aware and loved and made of the masters you did in leadership and in emotional intelligence and I guess in pretty much any line of work that will be seen as such a positive thing. Football is a very weird profession, though, that so much of it is still quite old school. And when you talk about that and you bring that up, I find the conversation around it often is almost one of them. But again, it's all about tactics.
It's all about buying the right players. That's not really what football is about. Have you found much resistance? And to your views on the game and your views on developing people, which maybe have changed a lot within football over the last 10, 20 years? Has it been different, your experience in Sweden and then coming over to England and Wales versus Swansea, but then moving into the Premier League? How have you found people's attitudes to that more wholesome view of lost a football club be?
Well, I don't really interest myself too much with what people from the outside say, because they don't really know that they've got this opinion of how football is and what's important. Most of them have never been in that situation to have an opinion. So I don't really care too much about that.
I think you're right, though. I mean, football is about ultimately about players. It's about a team understanding how they're playing. But many, many managers have been sacked because they've, in inverted commas, lost the dressing room. And so a football team is ultimately a collection of people. It's a group. And if you don't understand about how to work with a group or have relationships within the group, you best make sure that you've got some really good players because you might lose some football matches, because if people don't want to try for each other, if they don't want to fight for each other, if they don't want to play for the for the team, then you can have you can have problems.
We had Neil Lennon on the show last week and he was on with Stylin Petroff and Chris Sutton. And they were talking and telling stories of that great Celtic team under Martin O'Neill and the type of characters that were in that dressing room and the type of manager Martin O'Neill was and what he let them away with in many ways, and then was comparing it to the current Celtic side. Now he has to manage and it's it's more trying to cajole the players rather than cornering the players.
Is it just we have a different way of talking about it now than, say, when you were a player as to how managers interact or is there is the dressing room actually a totally different place from 10, 20 years ago? I think, yeah, because society's change, I would say it has it has it has changed, but I think fundamentally it's still the same. The managers, the mine, O'Neill, for example, I was with Martin at Wickham for for a short period.
And he you know, he understood about people, understood about the group, understand about the dynamic as much as anybody. So I think that's it will always remain. Football is still a game. Two got two goals, two teams, LMB 11. And you've got to work out the best team, the fans. Each other helps if you've got the better players.
But also there's plenty there's plenty of spy stories or examples of teams that maybe haven't got the most quality or haven't got their best players, but have got to something we call a team spirit or some attitude that is there, that that means that they can they can work together and they can be better than than the individuals in the team. And I think that's that that's actually important. And I don't think we'll ever get away from that in football. It was obviously when you got the job a year ago, a lot of talk around the change of philosophy on the pitch as well, and the stats bear that out.
More passes, more possession. I want to say your opponent was seen as something of a risk, but they obviously went from a very experienced manager and Utne, a very pragmatic manager. And I know you're certainly not the type that would ever speak down of of anybody else or any of your predecessors. It seemed, again, from the outside that maybe it was to do with an attitude, the Brighton, be happy with survival, lads. Dobie, have a notions about yourself that you can play a different style of football.
Did you find any of that resistance inside the club? Because they obviously have success. They'd been promoted, become a solid Premier League side, playing a certain type of football. How much did you have to go about winning over the players? It's what you wanted to do. I think you're right. I took over a team that had success in terms of doing a great job at Brighton in terms of promotion and then stayed in the league. So and a tremendous football person.
So there was a lot of respect for Chris in the break with the players and amongst the staff. And and my job was to try to build on that, really to try to to try to use it and to try to then see, OK, where can I take that? Where can I take this? And I think that's always the challenge. You've got to go too quickly. You can't just go just because I have a feeling that I will do this.
I always respect the players, respect where where it's where it was, where it's come from, and try to move it towards the direction that you think is is right for us. As I've said before, in football, there's no right or wrong. There's no style that is better or worse than anybody else's is just we will have to make our choices. And the important thing I think it is always is to be respectful for what's been here before, because, like I said, the Chris did a great job.
And then and then, as in any coach, any year, you have to try to improve on that. And and and that's that was the job. And I'm lucky that because Chris had done such a good job, he left a good group of players, a good environment and good good professionals that wanted to try were open minded. And and, yeah, we've had our bumps, of course. And it's not straightforward, but we've made a start at where we want to try to get to.
How would you describe the Graeme Potter style of football? Yeah, I think I would like to think that that is a balanced style that I think a lot of people try to pigeonhole you into certain things and make the easy labeling. But but always I look at the balance between defense and attack. I don't think you can do what we've done in terms of the league and football without having that understanding of that. But fundamentally, you want to try and understand what the players can do, because there's no point saying, as a coach, I want to do this, this and this, but the players are unable to do it or it's not necessarily playing to their strengths.
You want players to be themselves on the pitch and try to adapt. I mean, so that's what I would say. I would hope it was balanced and I'd hope that it takes into consideration the player's qualities.
Yeah, because we are all guilty of pigeonholing managers and again, to be a sense of, well, free flowing attacking football would mean that defensively there's got to be something lacking. You can't have that balance. Whereas actually you look at the statistics and in again, even though I think you've been overpriced and a few times you're in the season talking to supporters, they were very much enjoying a more possession play based game. We didn't concede any more goals.
I think that's always the the foundation was what was perceived to be defensive previously.
So you know what it's like if you try like I said before, if you tried to change something too quickly, you can actually try to develop his playing style one way and then open up holes and somewhere else. So it's about doing it the right times. And with the players on board, that's that's what that's the big challenge. Because in the Premier League, again, results aren't so easy to get. And if you want to change something and you want to convince people that winning football matches, as we've discussed earlier, is the best way to do it.
But but we're at the sharp end of football and we're the the toughest decision in the world. So that brings it's clear challenge.
It does feel, actually, that the conversation around Brighton last summer is very similar to the conversation we've had around Irish football in recent times. And that from the outside you would look and Martin O'Neill and Giovanni Trapattoni got Ireland to major finals. It was always an underlying sense from the supporters that they wanted more they wanted more possession based football, that the likes of Armenia, Georgia, might come to Dublin and dominate possession. And that's not what we want to football in this country to be about.
Now, Stephen Kenny is coming in here, I think. Well, obviously, you're going to get to know now with the Irish players that are at the club, but you might have gone up against some dark in some pre-season friendlies before that. He has a philosophy probably not that dissimilar to you as well. And there's a time and a place when people are ready for it. Maybe last summer was the time and the place of Brighton, having had the pragmatic, having had the success and having cemented their place in the team, they were ready just for that little bit more.
Yeah, I mean, I can't really comment on why they wanted to make the clubs. I suppose they are entitled to make those decisions. And then when the opportunity came, it was it was a it was a good one for me. I think you have to I suppose you have to just be careful. You as much as it's I don't think it's about my philosophy or the coach's philosophy should the most important thing is to understand the players, the players.
You've got your disposal and how best to get. The best out of them and play a tug of football that people recognize, if you don't get results, it does matter what style you play.
If you don't get results, people will pull at it and they'll be critical of it. So you might talk about possession by style or you might talk about an attacking style. But if you lose the first four or five matches, then there'll be a lot of criticism out there to to to you know, we all understand that. So the key is to is to understand the players and then. And then and then to to try to to to work as closely to that as you can.
Talking of the Irish players, then, actually, I mentioned that the animals on the show last week, you said they've made tentative inquiries for change. Give us the big exclusive if that's what they need to leave here with. And any update on Centofanti at all? Can you tell us anything? No, no, nothing.
Try and stay with us. Try, try and try and. Well, we're having a pool and a dance competition. Tonight is a bit of team building style actually be one of the favourites for that. He's a fantastic guy, fantastic lads and an amazing relationship with him. And he's and he's a brilliant player.
So we're we're happy with that. It must be you've got to be happy with the depth you have at centre half. There's obviously a lot of speculation about Ben as well. You've got six or seven players there as a manager. It is a difficult position. I guess you talk about the character and he's such a big presence. You feel around Brighton that you've got to look long term as well as can you keep six or seven centre halves happy even if you decide to go and play three at the box.
So do you have some big decisions to make over the next week or so?
Yeah, I think there will be.
I think there's always you always have to understand, as much as we want to try and build our own team, you have to respect the individual as well, their careers. There'll be times where players will think, OK, maybe I need to move and play football, or maybe a decision comes from from our side. Those things are happening. Football. Well, the windows are open. That's that's that's what happens. But, yeah, we're happy with the group.
We've got we're we're happy with the dynamic at the moment. We want to try and improve from last year. And you need good players to to to do that. And and Shane certainly is a good player.
You've got to go Irish players with you as well. Aaron Connolly obviously was a bit of a revelation at times last season, particularly those two goals against Tottenham. Will you talk about your relationship with players and helping them develop? Can you talk to us about Aaron Connolly then and maybe even after that Tottenham game? Because he's a very young guy. He's just scored on the biggest stage. And I guess you want him to take a lot of confidence from that sort of performance.
But at the same time, you don't want to get too cocky about things. You don't want to think you've made it from that. Well, what's your relationship been like that and what he's been trying to get out of him over the last few months.
It's been really good, I've really enjoyed working with our own eyes. He's got some qualities that are a really high level, runs behind, affects the bottom line, and he can score goals. And he's only young. So he's he's had a career where he scored and he's about Knaack, which is a nice knock to have.
And, you know, pretty quickly, in pre season, you realize we played against the likes of Shane Duffy is playing.
It's like John Lewis Duncan, been against the likes of Adam Webster. That is causing them a problem. And you think, well, if he calls them a problem, you can call to the team. The problem at the same time is still learning the game and he's still learning how to be a professional footballer, the Premier League level. And and it's natural, really. You know, you score and you make your debut and you score two goals and you think maybe this is this is this is quite a bit easier than what the reality of it is.
And like anything is a young player that will go through ups and downs, bad moments, which is which is hard. And we've got to be there to help him and support him and to get him through those moments to understand what it takes to be a Premier League footballer, to be an international footballer. It's not about what you do in the first five matches. You've got to try to build a career that you're that you're around for 10, 15 years.
And and that's the work that we've been trying to do with him. He's fundamentally a good lad, but he's got a lot a lot to do as well. But he's got an exciting future. Yeah, he certainly does. And he's just say the word tough times because those two goals, they come on national TV gets thrown into the international side on a tough night with the international side. And he has to wait a long time for the next goal to come around.
Is he is he one of those characters that is just naturally positive and doesn't let them affect them? Or is he just like the rest of us? And actually, sometimes it gets it gets on top of them and you have to do a bit of work in terms of making sure that's not the opposite, of getting too cocky to actually realise, yeah, you are 19, 20. It's my take a little bit of time. Yeah.
He's a human being at the end of the day and he in school for a while, he's going to feel that, that he isn't doing as well as he thinks he should and all that, all that, all that talk which can be not so helpful. You have to try it again to try and help him with perspective. This is your first season is is is contributing to winds, is contributing to team performances. When he's played, even when he hasn't scored, is he's played his role in first as a team.
And and it's also part of his development. He has to understand as well as you can expect, that every game is going to turn the page, score goals and play well as a forward. It's just it's that would be unfair of us to put that expectation on him, and it's unfair of him to put that expectation on himself. But that's all part of the process because he's so desperate to do well, so desperate to play the end, to play for his country and score goals.
And so you have to find the balance between perspective and his own ambition. Similar situation, I'd imagine, then with Jason Mulumba, who went out and loaned different scenarios and played a lot of games at a young age, just in terms of what he did last season alone, then do you get much of an opportunity to see what he's doing? Are you relying on your your backroom staff to feed back? Probably a bit of both, I would say.
I mean, a lot of the games he's going to televise, we've got to see those games and the way the world is now. You can access every game and pretty much. And so we've kept a close eye on Jason. He's a really good experience of Minwalla, a good year last year. He's come into pre-season with us. Now we're going to good. And again, he's he's got the right attitude, the right personality, desperate to be a footballer, desperate to play.
And we have to try and help him with the next steps of his career. And that's again, that's the challenge for us. Yeah, that is a big challenge as well. I guess when you are at the top elite level, because you look at your midfielders, Davey proper, Dale Stephens's, you assume that these are men who have been around the block, who are real quality players, have done little or nothing wrong. And while you want to help Jason Bellambi along, there may not be a huge amount of game time there and you may need to grab his chances.
Dipti, do you see him being approached in this season or is there a chance he goes back out on loan or what was the plan?
I think I think we're going to take as long as we can to to to get to know each other more before we make that decision, because he's a big decision for him, is keen to play and he's keen to carry on that that that development that he's had.
But I would also argue that at the start, the season are uncommonly and Murray and Fernando and Lecourtier ahead of him. So or certainly first in footballers. And we and we made a pathway for him in a space for him. So but at the same time, when you're playing young players, they're not consistent. They're a bit up and down. And as a coach, you have to shoulder that as well. So it's a bit of a balance always, as we spoke about earlier.
But I like Jason a lot like his personality. I like his football attributes. And like I said, he's desperate to play football and and learn and improve and and as a coach, it's nice to it's nice to put those players aside. As we said before, you've got to respect the careers and respect that they want to carry on developing and moving forward.
How do you know when they're ready at that age? How did you know Aaron Connolly was was ready for that step up?
Well, I wouldn't say that. I knew that he was ready. I just thought that he had some attributes that could be really helpful and useful in the Premier League.
So I thought that he could rally behind defenders. And I thought that he could you could score. He still got a lot lots of things to learn. And I guess that's the challenge with the Premier League and young players. It's it's helping them learn the trade at that level. It's it's it's not so easy because the the pressure and the external noise and all that sort of stuff and the competition itself isn't so easy, but you never know is the answer.
But at the same time, what you do know is that they'll try the best. They'll give everything. And and then and then your job is to try to help them through that process and and at the same time make sure the team gets enough results that back to our conversation earlier that you can keep your three points. So you keep your points that can keep you on the job, because the philosophy, if you if you play Darren Connolly or you're playing Jason Mulumba, but you've lost a few games, it'll be some guy in Ireland I need to get the sack.
Despite the play, despite the fact that you played young players from Ireland. You know, it's that's how it is.
Yeah. Well er put them in first.
I would worry about that later on. That's the main thing, is that it is a it is an unusual scenario of course that they could well be playing international football before they're back at Brighton, which is another thing to throw into the mix. Have you had many conversations with Stephen Kenny or is that just not something that really happens?
No, I'm I'm pretty sure we will over the next days because those guys are going to be close to the thinking, I'm pretty sure. So, yeah, we want to help them. And I think the more the closer you get to the the relationship, the better, because we've got information for them.
And yeah, we want to help them do well because it's it's in everybody's interest for them to go to the country and play well. Nobody would be happy to me because it's yeah. It's a it's a great experience for them and a huge honour. And again, that's what I said before. It'll make a difference to their lives and their their careers.
One last question, because you've been very good with your time. I mentioned your playing career and you played in the Premier League with Southampton. I think it was eight appearances. I think you have to work.
You're quite generous with referring to me as a good player. But no, no, no, no.
But to me, if you play that weirdly, two of the games you played in, we're two of the most famous Premier League games it's ever been. Sometimes in six three win over Manchester United, where I think he came off the bench, but you started the day that led to George Wayas imaginary cousin who somehow managed to trick Graeme Souness started that game. You were playing for Southampton that afternoon. Have you any memories of of that idea and that whole situation?
Well, yeah, I've been asked this a few times, actually, I remember, I remember and come in and being somebody's relation. Yeah. And the lads weren't so sure when try it in and you ended up playing. But, you know, sometimes when you're a player, you just focus on yourself. And I was trying to establish myself in the team and I was just, you know, like I said, I was worried. I was worried so much for myself or trying to get myself up to the level and be a Premier League player.
And I didn't take too much notice. But I remember the the boys weren't convinced at the time. But then probably probably probably when they're speaking about me, they weren't convinced about me.
You're just delighted he took the pressure off myself.
I was I was delighted. I stood on the side of the Abramoff Graham. It's been brilliant. Yeah. Well, luckily, things have gotten slightly differently for the two of you since then. You've been great with your time and know you're in the middle of pre-season, not in Scotland at the moment. And as I say, there's a huge Irish interest in what happens at Brighton this season. So we'll be keeping a very close eye.
Thanks for talking to us and good luck to the OTB podcast network.