Goalkeepers won't cost Bradley, his decision making will

Article by Kieran Burke - @KieranBTS.

On last Monday's Soccer Republic, former Sligo and Dundalk player and current pundit, Alan Cawley labeled Shamrock Rovers goalkeeping situation a "shambles" and that it will end up costing "Hoops" boss Stephen Bradley his job at the Tallaght Stadium. Although Horgan has ironically been Shamrock Rovers best of a bad bunch in the past two displays, which resulted in humiliating defeats to struggling duo Bohemians and Bray Wanderers, Cawley is correct in his assessment of the Dublin clubs goalkeeping crisis.

However, the RTE pundit was slightly off the mark when he concluded that the shambolic performances of Horgan and his counterpart, Tomer Chencinski, would cost under-fire Bradley his position. For it is the rookie managers mind-boggling decision making that has landed Rovers in the position they currently find themselves, eight points off the pace set by a Dundalk team yet to truly click and with two games more played by the Dublin club.

Bradley's lack of media skills has also played a major role in recent weeks with the former Rovers midfielder feeding unneeded ammunition to local rivals Bohemians in the build up to last Friday's failed Dublin derby, which he described as being the "Gypsies" "Cup Final". Also, coming out to declare his side could not possibly compete against Cork City and Dundalk for the title this season may seem like a good idea for a manager under such extreme pressure, as Bradley is at the moment, but it simply should not and will not truly be accepted by the vast majority of supporters at Ireland's most trophy laden outfit.  

Even before you examine Bradley's obvious flaws this season, many would argue the thirty-three-year-old got off lightly last season as the "Hoops" crumbled in a number of high pressure games. Humiliated 3-0 in front of their own fans at the Tallaght Stadium by Stephen Kenny's "Lilywhites" in the EA Sports Cup final, beaten by the same opposition at the same ground in an even bigger FAI Cup semi-final and of course defeated no less than thirteen times in just thirty-three league games as Shamrock Rovers fell over the line into third place, it could be argued many managers have been sacked for far less down the years, particularly at this club. 

However, perhaps that's the point! Despite holding the stature and reputation of being Ireland's biggest and most illustrious club, the managerial hot-seat at Shamrock Rovers has been seen as something of a poison chalice in recent years. Since Michael O'Neill's departure in 2011, four permanent managers have passed through Tallaght's revolving door, not to mention caretakers and directors of football! As a club, Shamrock Rovers have totally realigned their focus to youth development and the academy out at the new Roadstone venue. Instantly recognisable names such as Damien Duff and Stephen Rice have become the face of the club, as Rovers look to produce the next line of international players and to a certain extent the fruits of their labour is already starting to show. 

However, without a strong first-team all of that goes out the window and the Shamrock Rovers board most certainly have a decision to make, following a horrendous start to the 2018 campaign, which has already seen six Rovers defeats in just twelve league matches. Going back to poor decision making, Stephen Bradley's eventual demise will circle around an astonishing decision made in the off-season. Recognised as one of the top right-backs in the league for many years by players, pundits and supporters alike, long-time Rovers servant and captain for that matter, Simon Madden was informed he was free to leave the club. Expecting a big name replacement for the man with almost three-hundred-league appearances, Rovers fans were left underwhelmed with the signing of Ethan Boyle from a relegated Finn Harps team and at the hefty cost of a reported €9,000 transfer fee. Simply put, Boyle has been atrocious since arriving at the Tallaght club and while Madden may not have hit the heights expected of him at Richmond Park just yet, he has still out performed his Rovers replacement by some distance.

Every off-season Shamrock Rovers fans seem to get whipped up into a frenzy by the arrival of a big reputation player at the club and this year that player was Greg Bolger. A double winner with Cork City in 2017, although not always first-choice under John Caulfield, the gritty central midfielder was suppose to bring untold quantities of experience and leadership qualities to his new club. However, Soccer Republic's Declan "Fabio" O'Brien summed up Bolger's short spell at Rovers perfectly on last nights show when he branded the midfielders performance in the Dublin derby a "disgrace" and that he should "hand back his wages". As harsh a criticism that may sound, O'Brien is right in that Bolger has brought nothing positive to this Rovers team and his constant selection by Stephen Bradley shows a lack of character from the man in charge in terms of not being able to deal with big name players. 

Usually the deciding factor a club will look at before making the final decision on a managers future is whether or not that manager has lost his dressing room and the players belief in him. Looking at the current situation at Rovers, it's hard to argue that Bradley still has that belief from his players, either that or he has simply lost his ability to motivate the troops. Following Friday's third consecutive derby defeat to Bohemians, Bradley kept his players locked in the home dressing rooms for well over an hour, not even emerging for media duties. For that same group of players to then go out just seventy-two-hours later and totally fail to turn up against the leagues bottom side, who ironically were without a manager, is the proof in the pudding that Stephen Bradley's time is up at Ireland's biggest club and it is now just a matter of when rather than if he will be relieved of his duties by the powers that be.