Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The National Job lottery: QuickPick Stan - David Bevan

John Delaney, head of the FAI, in seeking to defend Steve Staunton’s woeful start as Irish manager, pointed out that we have qualified for just one of the last six major tournaments. Supporters, he reckoned, need to adjust their expectations to the reality of the current level of talent at the manager’s disposal. Like Association suits the world over, he was talking rubbish.

When we lost to Germany the response to the players’ performance was generally positive (though people didn’t take kindly to Stan’s view that we had performed magnificently, we had after all been beaten and though the effort was good, moral victories aren’t worth any points). With our players, nobody expects us to beat Germany away from home but we do expect to beat San Marino, home and away, without too much bother. We do not expect to lose 5-2 to Cyprus.

Irish supporters realise that we don’t have the talent or experience of the teams that qualified for three out of four tournaments between ’88 and ’94. Everyone accepted that fact at some stage during Kevin Kilbane’s 75-cap career.

The one time in the half-dozen that we did qualify came about because Roy Keane got mad as Hell and just wouldn’t take it any more against Portugal and the Netherlands. Again, we know Keane is gone and that we will not see a player capable of such heights in an Irish shirt for a very long time. So, as it stands, we don’t have a great pool of talent and we don’t have one great footballer to make up for the team’s weaknesses.

In such circumstances, the one thing we had to get right was the appointment of the manager. We needed someone capable of examining our limited resources and creating a style of football that would make the best use of our qualities (Given, Dunne, Finnan, Duff, Doyle and Keane) and shore-up our weaknesses.

Instead, we got Steve Staunton who, they tell us, will bring ‘the passion’ back to Irish football. (Ian Harte has been playing like that all these years because of a lack of passion?)

This is an extraordinary gamble on the part of the FAI. They talk of grass-roots improvements going on behind the scenes, the re-structuring of the organisation from within and the implementation of long-term plans to secure the future of Irish football but when it came to the biggest decision of all, they went with a hunch.

There seems to be an attitude that, in this campaign, Stan will learn the ropes and that a real push will be made next time. We cannot afford such luxuries. Our current qualifying group isn’t tough but we’re floundering already, the Cypriots having shown us that passion is no substitute for organisation, aggression and skill.

What happens if we are drawn against, say, Portugal and the Netherlands in our next qualifying group? I’ll tell you what happens – we won’t qualify and two campaigns will have been wasted on a long shot.


offside said...

A solution to the Irish problem:

- Declare the independence of the People's Republic of Cork (about time, too)

- Appoint Roy Keane as Manager/Coach/Head of the FAPRC

- Recruit extra players from the Cork Hurling team (organisation, aggression and skill)

- Play in red

Otherwise, good analysis, and I sympathise, I really do.

MotM said...

Stan as manager just seems extraordinary from the outside (and now from the insdie, or so it appears).

Is any quality more over-rated in British and Irish sport than passion?

postern said...

Does Steve Staunton have a reputation for passion? I always thought he was bit dull. It looked a v poor choice from the off.
Still, Ireland's glory years were bossed by Charlton - and he ain't no tactical genius. Maybe they went with the default setting.

andrewm said...

As a Scot I definitely sympathise. You're more or less in the position we would have been in if we'd followed Berti Vogts by appointing Ally McCoist (shudder), although you do have slightly better players.

hannibalbrooks said...

What is this 'Irish football' that you mention?

The Irish national team doesn't represent 'Irish football' ... it represents a group of players with Irish passports or Irish grandparents who are completely representative of 'English football'. Since that is where they all learned and ply their trade.

A team comprised of players from Sligo and Shamrock Rovers etc would be representative of 'Irish Football'. So all in all, I'd say that Irish national football fans get a pretty good deal out of the situation.

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