By Ryan Kelly
In a 2003 documentary detailing his tenure as manager of English club Carlisle United, Roddy Collins was characteristically frank about the nature of a manager's relationship with the people bankrolling the on-field endeavours and gave an insight into his own personal temperament. “All marriages, even domestic marriages will have their rocky patches,” he said of his alliance with then-Carlise owner John Courtenay. “There will be rows - there will definitely be rows - because the two of us are very volatile people.”
Fast forward a decade and Collins finds himself at the helm at the Brandywell, managing Derry City, where, just three games into the SSE Airtricity Premier Division season with his new club, he is already facing into a 'rocky patch'.
Since taking over from local lad Declan Devine, Collins has set about reshaping the fortunes of the club, believing the north-west outfit to be capable of challenging for league honours. While allowing a number of local players to move on, the Dubliner has bolstered the squad with the vast experience of additions such as Cliff Byrne and Danny Ventre, as well as the youthful enthusiasm of striker Enda Curran.
However, results have thus far belied the 52-year-old's ambitious vision, with his team picking up a dismal two points from a possible nine in the opening fixtures, and stuttering to an uninspiring defeat in the first home game of the year. Quite aside from the poor start on the pitch, the acrimonious departure of club stalwart Kevin Deery has also stirred up serious resentment among a section of the support.
Confirming his release from the club, Deery branded Collins 'hateful' in a message leaked and circulated online. The former captain, who has struggled with a spate of injuries in recent years, felt that he was not treated with adequate respect by Collins regarding his future. The Derry boss has played down the outburst, but rumours persist of growing strife in a dressing room perceived to have been stripped of the old guard.
There had been an underlying expectation among supporters that drama would soon follow the appointment of Collins, but things are beginning to unravel much quicker than envisaged and a schism in opinions has already developed. Collins was brought to the Brandywell to instill discipline and it is clear that his approach has grated with some. It is, perhaps, not so much the decisions Collins has made, but the manner in which he has executed them that has ruffled feathers.
Indeed, the Dubliner is a massive personality and, although he is probably not as successful as other managers, carries himself with an abundance of charisma and self-belief. He is passionate to such a degree that he was already a truly divisive figure on the landscape of Irish domestic football, where his opinions, mannerisms and even something as mundane as his fashion sense endure constant analysis and criticism. Nevertheless, he thrives on it.
The idea that Collins has shipped out too many local players is, in truth, a misguided perception. For the reality is that a strong nucleus of locals remains, with Ryan McBride, Barry Molloy and the McEleney brothers continuing to play key roles in the early stages, while talented youth is still given a platform to flourish as Michael Duffy and Dean Jarvis can testify. Indeed, Collins' right hand man is Peter Hutton, a local man and veritable hero of the Brandywell. You can't get much more Derry City.
To remedy their early season woes, the Candystripes have the unenviable task of facing some of the most formidable teams in the division in their next three games, hosting St Patrick's Athletic and Sligo Rovers before travelling to Oriel Park to take on last season's runners-up, Dundalk.
With off-field distractions playing out loudly in the background, Collins must work hard to ensure that on-field exploits improve. He must endeavour to re-focus his troops, as this 'rocky patch' could well be the defining moment of his tenure.