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Dublin: 3°C Tuesday 26 January 2021

Stuart Byrne column: Full-time players need to start acting professionally

Clubs like Sligo Rovers aren’t performing as well as they should be and our weekly columnist questions where poor player attitudes have something to do with it.

Sligo Rovers goalkeeper Gary Rogers shouts at his defence on Friday.
Sligo Rovers goalkeeper Gary Rogers shouts at his defence on Friday.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

AFTER THE WEEKEND’S FAI Cup second games, the holders Sligo Rovers are out.

They were convincingly beaten 3-0 by Dundalk on Friday night and, because of their early season league form, the Bit O’Red find themselves fifth in the league table — a massive 17 points off the top.

Even at this early stage it is safe to say they have no chance of winning the title.

It looks to me that they are going to be battling for third or fourth spot at best. I know they won the Setanta Cup and there was some sort of financial reimbursement there but it could be their only silverware this season.

The issue here is that they are a full-time football club. They have a full-time squad with full-time staff and I would imagine they’ve got a fairly big weekly budget to look after.

It just brings into question the idea of full-time in the SSE Airtricity League and what people perceive it to be. Is it just a case that players train every morning, pick up a wage at the end of a week and that’s it?

That doesn’t automatically entitle teams to turn up every week and win games or to be fitter all-round. In fact, the reality is that’s not the case.

It’s a mentality thing and at the moment Sligo seem to be struggling with that. This has become a big problem that the club must tackle because, as it stands, they are way off the pace. Fitness-wise, they don’t even look on a par with some of the other sides like Dundalk, who train in the evenings.

Other clubs are looking at Sligo spending a lot of money on full-time and thinking that if they can’t achieve things, then what is the point in trying to emulate them.

They’re a full-time team playing in a part-time league and they need to turn things around quick because teams can fall into the a trap of going through the motions.

To be fair, I do think Sligo have done a lot of things right in how they have gone about building the club in recent times. They have won the league title, the FAI Cup and the Setanta Cup in the past two years.

I do have a lot of time for Ian Baraclough and the football club but I think they need to realise quickly that they are a full-time team and they are playing in a league where a lot of the other teams don’t have the same opportunities that they have.

Ian Baraclough Sligo boss Ian Baraclough. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The only way full-time football can work here is if you have players that are totally focused on being professional players. It has to be a long-term career for them and they have to buy into it like they do in England and all over Europe.

Players need to have some sort of financial security in the form of three or four-year contracts.

With one-year contracts, players are never going to buy into that as they are constantly worried about the end of the season. That has a big effect on the mentality of these guys.

If you look at the GAA players, they are training twice-a-day (often first thing in the morning). They are training more often than the full-time players in the LOI are training. The reason is they have bought into the career. The best players know they will be playing at the top level for the guts of ten or 12 years.

Some will have a good job to fall back on and an understanding with their employers in regards to training.

In the LOI, they don’t have that security and because of that I don’t think they are buying into full-time football as they should be.

There are all sorts of distractions for young footballers. The idea of being a footballers is quite glamorous and I feel that they are getting the wrong message completely.
Instead of focusing on their fitness and their mentality, how technically good they get they are more into the ‘bling’ and the lifestyle which is associated with being a footballer.

I’ve been chatting to some of the managers quite recently and the whole mentality of the younger players is really worrying. I’m convinced that the mentality is just not here and we’re as far away from where we want to be as we ever were.

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About the author:

Stuart Byrne

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