'Pain in the a***' parents are not helping young sports stars, says Damien Duff
Damien Duff believes 'pain in the a***' parents are one obstacle to Irish football's attempt to catch up with their European counterparts.
The former Ireland star is adapting to a new role within the game having moved into underage coaching and he has now taken charge of the U-15 side at Shamrock Rovers.
Duff is enjoying the role, although he remains bemused by the modern youngster's attitudes to football and bad habits that he attributes to a lack of practice.
But the Dubliner says that another factor is demanding parents who can sometimes take issue with how management run the team.
"Surprisingly enough I've really enjoyed it," said Duff yesterday. "A lot more goes into it than I realised. I can only imagine what it's like to manage a big club. It's a big job, just clipping games, looking forward to a game on Saturday, clipping footage of games you've just played and then dealing with pain in the a*** parents.
"I don't think it (interfering parents) helps kids, it gives them maybe a false sense," said Duff, when asked to elaborate and if it related to questions about team selection.
"A few have tried, 'My little Johnny is this or that' but I try to treat them like adults. I bring them back down to earth. I put on adult sessions that I got in the Premier League. That's the way I treat them; the way Brian (Kerr) treated me.
"I'm probably too tough on them, they probably hate me but that's the way I was brought up with the underage team and at Blackburn so that's how I'm doing it. I was always told how s**t it was or I needed to do something better.
Duff's Rovers side have started to introduce early-morning training sessions into their schedule with a view to catching up with sides from around the continent.
"We do one at 6.30 in the morning and, again, I don't know whether you'd call them cavemen here in Ireland but they're giving you a bit of stick because you're getting them out of bed. It's supposedly the best time to learn."
"I just got it from Melbourne, they are early risers over there. I believe other clubs in Dublin are doing it as well now so I'd like to think the trend will catch on.
"We're playing catch-up with the rest of Europe. I was at PSV a couple of weeks ago and their U-15s are doing six sessions a week and our clubs here do two or three, so I don't know how you expect to compete with them at a senior level when you're thousands of hours behind.
"It's just habits, little things on the pitch. Simple things but they're so ingrained, it takes a while to get rid of them. Then just standards around the place, their gear and being sloppy. But we're putting things right and I'd like to think it's happening across the board in the national league."
His old mentor Kerr can understand his frustrations. He recalls Duff calling him when he first dabbled at that level.
"He'd say to me 'Am I mad?' or are these kids brutal compared to when I was playing at U-15 or U-16?'," recalled Kerr. "I said you're right, they are brutal compared to when you were playing when kids did nothing else but play ball all day.
"They went out and played in the morning, at lunchtime and all that whereas now kids don't for loads of reasons. You need structured training to replace that."