In Defence Of Ishy
No-one would have been the least bit surprised to see Ishmel Demontagnac dismissed by the club for what they say was ‘three years of indiscipline’. The match-going fan is rarely privileged to know the ins and outs of training ground/dressing room goings on but there have been rumours about his behaviour off the pitch and we’ve all witnessed his antics during games. How many of us have refrained from comments about how long it’d be before he got sent off? Not too many, I’d wager.
However it’s not my intention to defend the lad’s behaviour. It’s comparatively rare for a club to ‘sack’ a player and things are usually done via the far more diplomatic route. You know the one, ‘contract cancelled by mutual consent’ – a phrase that can cover a multitude of hidden meanings and allows club and player to limit the amount of ‘face’ they stand to lose. The fact that the Saddlers felt that dismissing the Ish remained the only realistic option makes it abundantly clear that he’d pushed his luck a bit too far a bit too often. It’s a shame for the club and for the lad himself because there just might be a player of high quality in there among the demons.
I can’t help but wonder if the whole issue might not revolve around one particular moment in the club’s long and mainly undistinguished history. It’s emerged over the last week that Ishmel has a problem with alcohol so could it be that coming under the charge of Paul Merson became the pivotal moment in the young lads life? Now, I’m not suggesting that Merse was dragging the lad to the nearest pub and pouring Newcastle Brown down his throat but Merse’s own problems are widely documented and addictions to drugs, booze and gambling do not a good role-model make. If Ishy had turned up at Bescot (I refuse to call it the Banks’s Stadium) looking the worse for wear how could Merson call him to the office for a lecture when the lad could justifiably turn around and say “You should talk!” Coming under the influence of a strong manager at that time might just have made all the difference.
And it might not. Anyone who’s read Chris Marsh’s ‘The Good, The Bad & The Boozy’ tome will have read of a constant battle between Marshy and Sir Ray to get the upper hand, and Ray’s entire way of doing things was based largely on players operating within strict disciplinary parameters. Do things my way or sling your hook.
Dicky seemingly tried every trick in the book to get inside the player’s head but ultimately got nowhere. We were told that Paul Hall had been brought in with the main aim of influencing Ishy into channelling his undoubted talent in a useful, effective direction but Hall went back out on loan in next to no time. Might the experiment have worked if given more time?
Ishmel’s had a good deal of bad press of late and justifiably so. I’ve heard it suggested, without any prompting from me, that the incident leading to the Scunthorpe sending-off was a deliberate move by the player to force the club’s hand. Could it be that the lad himself felt that he needed a change of environment before he could make any other changes? We’ll never know.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that no-one’s heard Ishy’s side of things and we might think differently if we did. On one hand he never really got a decent extended run in the team because of his ineffectiveness when he did get a chance. But how’s he meant to get his feet under the table if he’s never invited round for a meal? Would a more regular place in the starting eleven have allowed him to play without fear and thereby express himself better? Would he have outgrown his Cristiano-esque tendency for over-elaboration? Again, who can say?
WFC obviously felt they’d given Ishmel all the chances they could while still maintaining discipline among the rest of the playing staff and it does genuinely look like the club tried its level best to sort out his problems but in the end enough was very definitely enough.
Being placed in the hands of such a poor role model at such a young and impressionable time of life might have been where Ishmel’s downfall took root. However he’s young enough to turn things around and to go on and have a good career. I suspect that if Neil Warnock can’t have an effect then no-one can.
Hopefully both Walsall FC and Ishmel Demontagnac can profit from their parting of the ways. Here’s to them both.