Johnny Fallon

Irish Political Commentator

Footie Fun…Is David Moyes Brian Cowen?

Everyone remembers the comparisons between Gordon Brown and Brian Cowen. Both men had some striking career similarities. However, it may be just as much to do with the problems of taking over a vessel that has had a popular captain but is starting to leak when he leaves. So with tongue firmly in cheek I was thinking yesterday about the similarities between Brian Cowen and David Moyes…the new manager at Manchester United. In particular I was wondering if Moyes might yet find away to avoid the fate of someone like Brian Cowen.

First of all let’s take the good careers of both men. Cowen was a long standing Minister, served in several of the most important ministries. He was a very safe pair of hands, while several of his colleagues lurched from crisis to crisis, Cowen seemed to avoid disaster and remain in control. Even his political opponents described him as ‘intelligent’ and ‘formidable’. They might say he lacked some delicate personality skills but they respected him.
Moyes has been a manager in the top flight and proved that he can survive. While many managers come and go at both bigger and lesser clubs, Moyes proved at Everton that he was a safe pair of hands. He was recognised for being level headed and smart in how he approached things. He got into the odd row but he always seemed to be in control. While across the city of Liverpool, other managers were struggling at Anfield Moyes seemed to have a relative sea of calm.

The one thing that could be said negatively about Brian Cowen before he became Taoiseach was that he was not a trailblazer. He liked to facilitate, consult and listen to advice. He was not a man to come up with new or outstanding policies in his own right, nor was he a natural risk taker. He could be tough but there would be no major policy victories that would be attributed to him alone. He introduced lots of good legislation but it was never stuff that would go down in history as ‘his idea’ or due solely to his leadership.

Moyes did an incredible job at Everton given the resources; at least that is what everyone was saying. The one criticism was that he had never really won anything. He had a long list of impressive performances but no trophies. This led to question marks over his leadership and as to whether he could really inspire as well as just manage a team.

Brian Cowen took over from Bertie Ahern. Ahern had held the best record of any leader in modern Irish politics. He was popular, electorally successful; he had been at the helm for 14 years of stunning achievements. Cracks were just starting to show though. Popularity was slipping to new lows, problems were on the horizon.

Moyes took over from Ferguson. The most successful Manager in the modern game. Ferguson was a hero who led his side to 20 year of unprecedented success, trophies and stunning results. Some problems were evident. United were not quite as dominant as they once were and although they won the league last season it was generally recognised the team was not as strong as some of the previous illustrious squads.

Bertie Ahern announced Brian Cowen as his anointed one. Some in cabinet, like Dermot Ahern, were rumoured to be very annoyed at the manner in which Ahern did this. He made it impossible for anyone to challenge Cowen. Once he had given his blessing, Cowen was a shoo in.

Alex Ferguson made David Moyes his Chosen one. This brought huge pressure for Moyes and made sure that the search for a successor was a short one.

Brian Cowen was often described as an incredibly ‘unlucky’ Taoiseach. One problem after another hit as soon as he took over. The ‘pork crisis’ was a perfect example of a matter outside of his control that just side swiped the government. However, whether it was the economy, Banking, storms or a host of other issues that hit there was a feeling that Cowen just could not get a break. Those close to him blamed this bad luck. It became an excuse.
Moyes has been hit by a series of injuries, deflected goals, near misses and other plain bad luck. There is a lot of talk about if and when the team is fit, if and when luck changes and much of United’s current crisis has been put down to some bad luck. It has become an excuse when things just aren’t going well enough.

Cowen became belligerent, determined to block out other voices. He ended up spending big to save the banking sector but it could not save his reputation. It’s all well and good taking a decision like that but it backfires if it’s not the right decision.

Moyes is increasingly unwilling to accept the faults within the game play at United. He has now spent big to bring Mata to United. He is a special player but most commentators believe he is not what United needed, but Moyes isn’t listening to commentators. A lot will depend on how this signing works out and if United can improve on the back of it.

Finally, it all came to a grubby end for Brian Cowen. Ousted before an election. He did get a nice termination payment and pension in line with his contract. Some still are annoyed about that.

Moyes still deserves a shot at turning things around at United. There is still hope for him. He just needs to get control and start listening. There are a lot of problems to be overcome but United still have a squad that’s better than their results. If Moyes can get it right then things can change. However, if like Brian Cowen he continues down the line of Bunker mode then he will not last. In that case the United fans will have to accept a parting of the ways and a likely 6 or even 7 digit payout to say good bye to the Chosen one.

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