Gráinne McElwain: Like Clough and Leeds, are Mickey Harte and Derry just not the right fit?

Former Tyrone manager has enjoyed a hugely successful career but things haven’t gone smoothly with the Oak Leafers

Gráinne McElwain

Gráinne McElwain

Grainne is a columnist with The Irish News. She is a sports broadcaster with experience working with Sky Sports, TG4, RTÉ, BBC and Eir Sport.

Derry will have their work cut out against Westmeath next weekend but even if they escape that, the draw that would come next does not look appetising for Mickey Harte. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin
Despite success in the National League, Mickey Harte's time in charge of Derry has been far from smooth Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

Under the guidance of Don Revie, Leeds United won two First Division titles in the 1960s and early 1970s as well as the FA cup and two Inter Cities Fairs Cup, a precursor to the UEFA Europa League.

Revie was a player with Leeds before he became manager and spent 13 years in charge before leaving to become England manager in July 1974.

He was admired by players who spoke highly of him, many of them brought into the club at a young age and he helped create a family environment.

Jack Charlton, Johnny Giles and Eddie Gray were players of note at that time with Gray commenting in a later interview that “a lot of the boys joined when we were kids, grew up together and we had that bond between us. Don made us a family and we were, that’s how he wanted us to be.”

Brian Clough came in as manager when Revie left and told the players in their first meeting “that as far as I am concerned, you can throw your medals in the bin.”

As you can imagine, those comments did not go down well within the dressing room and Clough was sacked after 44 days. The players did not like Clough’s style and he was a very different manager and person to Revie, who for many was the only manager that they had ever had.

Those of a certain age will remember Clough while others would have heard of him.

Clough would go on to become one of the most successful football managers in England with Nottingham Forest.

Over a period of 18 years from that summer in 1975, he would lead Forest from mid-table in Division two to winning the first Division championship in 1978 adding two consecutive European cup wins in 1979 and 1980.

What was it about Clough that made him a failure in Leeds but a huge success in Nottingham Forest? He obviously learnt lessons from his time in Leeds that he took with him to Forest but although he had terrific players at his disposal at the Yorkshire club, the bottom line was that the players did not want to play for him.

Revie had nurtured these players from as young as 14 years old so not only was he their manager, he was also a father figure to many of them. They loved and respected him and he got them results. The different approach Clough took with the tough love, did not work for them.

In Nottingham Forest, he was going into a team that was not successful and he had full reign to implement the style he wanted and also the players he chose to bring to the club as well.

Roy Keane played under Clough and spoke highly of him as a manager. Keane thrived under his tough love policy which not every player does.

The contrast to these two managerial styles and clubs can be applied to Mickey Harte and his involvement with both Tyrone and Derry.

Mickey is Tyrone’s most successful manager ever and like Revie, he brought players through from minor to U21 and then senior, winning three All-Ireland senior championship titles along the way with his native county.

He spent 18 years in that role winning All-Irelands at every age grade he was in charge of.

There was very little expectation when he got involved but he and his management teams exceeded expectations and under his leadership, terrific players got their hands on the biggest football accolade.

Leeds United captain Billy Bremner (l) looks away from Manager Brian Clough (r) as the teams line-up before the kick off
Despite a successful managerial career, Brian Clough found out the hard way that he and Leeds United were not a good fit (PA/PA)

A bit like Clough going to Leeds United, though, Mickey finds himself in a dressing room now with new players who are not familiar with him or his methods and there is massive expectation.

Everything went so well in the League but he was appointed to help Derry achieve an All-Ireland title and that is what he will be judged on.

I don’t think it’s fair to say players are not playing for him but only the players will know why basic mistakes are creeping into their game now and why discipline has become an issue when it wasn’t previously.

You can blame tiredness and injuries but let’s face it, they are not the only Ulster team who have had that challenge.

Is it the case that Derry peaked for the League final, got silverware and they have nothing left in the tank? This appears to be the case but can you blame this all on the manager?

Judging by the vitriol and gossip directed towards Mickey by some commentators and former players, it is personal and for some they would prefer Derry to fail so Mickey Harte does not succeed.

Derry are better than Westmeath and, on paper, should beat them in Newry on Saturday evening. However, they are not playing well and I am looking forward to seeing what they want as a group out of Saturday’s game.

It is the last chance saloon for both teams in this year’s Championship and they both need a win for points and morale. If Derry do not perform and win, it could possibly end Mickey Harte’s reign with the Oak Leaf county.

Just like Clough’s reign with Leeds didn’t make him a bad manager, he just found that it wasn’t the right fit for him. The clock is ticking as to whether Derry and Mickey Harte are the right fit for each other.