James Lawton: O'Leary offers another example of managerial myopia

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The Independent Football

Sam Allardyce's claim on behalf of the League Managers' Association that it was outrageous of the Football Association to appoint Trevor Brooking as head of development despite his lack of coaching badges is, I'm pleased to see, being received with something less than universal approval.

One of the more persuasive responses is that the LMA has quite a bit to do in the matter of controlling its own members before doling out free advice to the rest of the football world.

We have already covered here the issues of unhealthy relationships with agents, flagrant poaching of other clubs' players, an unseemly willingness to jump into colleagues' jobs before any kind of proper settlement has been reached and, not least, the catastrophically poor development of homegrown players and managers.

Now up pops Aston Villa's David O'Leary with another example of managerial myopia. His diatribe against the referee Mark Halsey for allowing Thierry Henry's quickly taken free-kick was palpably absurd - a classic display of football's habit of blaming everyone but yourself.

Arsenal were awarded a free-kick, something which was meant to give them an advantage. Henry was told by Halsey that he could take the kick quickly. He did so, and Villa were in a pathetic state of preparation. Juan Pablo Angel was lacing up his boots. More than half the team had taken their eyes off the ball. And Henry struck it home; advantage given, and taken. It should have been the end of the matter, except for a thorough inquest in the Villa dressing-room.

O'Leary, with slim resources, is making something of a tough job at Villa Park. His talent for getting young players to believe in themselves has been visible again in the team's recent upward mobility.

But it will come to nothing if he does not hammer home a few of the old truths that might just get lost in all the coaching jargon. One of them - which every great old player knows - is that when the ball goes dead a good team comes alive.