MOST managers who have a team hovering just above the relegation zone, constantly slate their players in public and disgrace themselves by having a go at individuals in the opposition dugout would be hammered by journalists and pundits up and down the country.
Neil McCann is an exception to the rule.
Having overseen the clubs survival over the last five games of last season, McCann took the bold step of swapping his comfortable lifestyle with Sky Sports, where he would praise and criticise players for a living, to take the first steps in his management career.
However, he’s found life difficult at Dens Park, where he made his name as a player before carving out a successful career at Hearts and Rangers, and has found the transition from pundit to manager very difficult. Too often, McCann has forgotten that he is no longer in the comfort of David Tanner in the Sky Sports studio at live games as he has continuously lambasted his players in several post match interviews.
Labelling his team as embarrassing, saying he is ashamed and calling performances a joke with the microphones in his face on a regular basis is not best practice for keeping a dressing room together, especially when you are fighting to stay in the top flight. Whilst some of what he says is perhaps true, these things should be kept in house. Richie Foran is a prime example of a man who slaughtered his team in the media on a regular basis, and he ultimately paid the price for taking Inverness into the Ladbrokes Championship, so McCann needs to reign in his public criticism of his team.
It is arguable that Neil Lennon goes over the top when he criticises his players after a poor Hibs performance, and he gets criticism for it. However, he does it very rarely and backs himself up by getting a result in the next game that helps his team challenge at the top end. Another manager who has been guilty of letting his frustrations get the better of him in post match interviews is Martin Canning of Hamilton. Again, his rants about his players are very rare as he acknowledges the challenges his limited group of players have, and that slating them publicly every week won’t help the situation.
These two get criticised by pundits for not keeping it in-house but there has not been a single word uttered by them towards one of their own, and that is the only reason why Neil McCann is escaping flak.
There is also no talk of him being sacked, unlike his predecessor Paul Hartley a year ago. It can be argued that it’s his first full season and that he deserves time to get it right but have Dundee improved under his management? They are struggling to score goals and are not keeping them out at the other end, as emphasised on Saturday in their appalling 4-0 defeat by St Johnstone that leaves them just three points ahead of Partick Thistle, who occupy the playoff position.
It was that St Johnstone game that saw McCann overstep the mark by having a go at the St Johnstone kit man and slap substitute keeper Zander Clark, leading to unpleasant exchanges between both benches and players then having a go at each other going into the tunnel. His behaviour was disgraceful and has, rightfully, seen him face SFA disciplinary action.
Whilst the media did highlight the incident, which took the shine off Saints impressive display, again there was no real criticism of McCann’s behaviour unlike others who have overreacted when tempers have flared in the dugout. Again, it seems as though they are scared of criticising a man who thrived in his pundits role, taking home a nice salary to slaughter players in the comfort of a studio.
Dundee are in a precarious position at the moment with nine games to play and they are, undoubtedly, in the mix of a relegation battle.
If they are to defy those odds, then Neil McCann has to stop acting like a pundit and get his players performing for him quickly to keep their heads above water for another season.
Should Dundee end their four year stay in the Premiership, then McCann could well be begging for a return to Sky as his management career would come to a shuddering halt.