Dundalk 2-1 Shelbourne
Was that it? Was that the moment where the whole season kicks off? Will we look back on that glorious glancing header from John Martin as the moment everything clicked?
It wasn’t the greatest performance by any means, but there have been better performances this season which haven’t yielded three points. This felt like a moment. It felt like something we can build on.
Building a football club, through joined up, long term planning and thinking is something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about and studying over the last while. I know, I’m super cool right?
Being presented with the situation that Dundalk FC found themselves in post takeover, I tried to think about what was possible, what was realistic, what was fair to expect for us.
Last season was all about turmoil and controversy and blinding despair. This season, as I’ve said so many times, is about building.
Before we start, I’m aware that financially this League is lightyears away from other leagues in Europe and that financial instability causes chaos and causes best laid plans to be ripped up and thrown away because short term thinking is all that matters when trying to make ends meet, I know that.
I’ve been reading Glorious Reinvention by Karan Tejwani and it chronicles how Ajax were reborn after years of mismanagement and a lack of a fully formed cohesive structure within the football club.
Don’t worry, I’m not comparing ourselves to Ajax but there are elements of what they have done to reinvent themselves that we could look at.
Could a club like Dundalk build a culture, a defined style of football, a way of committing to and developing academy players?
Could we get to stage where if the rest of Europe saw that a player came through the ranks at Dundalk FC they knew they would be technically and tactically proficient?
In the book Tejwani talks about how, by order of Johann Cruyff, Ajax set about bringing players and staff who had come through their system, back into the fold to help return the football club to the heights of European football.
I know it’s improbable, silly even, to try to model ourselves after a club the size of Ajax with its budgets and facilities but why can’t we build a version of that? Our own version of the Glorious Reinvention?
Last year I wrote about how we needed to do more to enhance ourselves as a football club, one who had been so dominant domestically and one that had broken barriers in Europe. The stadium was one of the major issues that was discussed but its more than that.
We’re at a very special time and place as a football club right now. The canvass is blank and we can throw out ideas and restart. In many ways it feels like this journey has already begun.
We have in our head coach, a legend of our team. Someone who understands why Dundalk FC is so special, if he didn’t, he would never have left Inchicore. Someone who the fans will appreciate and respect even when questioning his team selections and tactics.
We’re in a unique situation in that we will have, over the next few years, players reaching the age where they might consider moving into coaching and management. Players who were part of the club through the last ten years or so. Players who have been there and done it all.
Mining their knowledge and expertise when they have finished their careers is essential to building a culture around Dundalk FC. Getting these players involved in all aspects of the club, even on part time basis will help the club develop and maintain its identity.
The one thing that stands out as lacking over the last few years is the lack of local players becoming mainstays in the team. I’m sure this will be an area of focus for the new regime and I will be looking into it more so be prepared for a rambling incoherent mess of a blog post about youth coaching coming your way soon!
For now though, I’ll stick to replaying the John Martin header over and over again, keep reading about Ajax and keep being a fool who has ludicrous ideas.