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We Need A Big Man Upfront

It may not be pretty, but in the absence of a midfield playmaker in the Irish camp, there’s a lot to be said for using a target man to create chances.

Tony Cascarino, 12 Sep 2003



I wish I could sugar the pill a bit, but it has to be said that Ireland’s performance against Russia was mediocre in so many ways. Apart from the final ten minutes, when we threatened and could have nicked a winner, we didn’t cause them nearly enough problems.

Lee Carsley and Stephen Carr on the right side were particularly ineffective; Damien Duff made the goal he scored superbly – but otherwise he wasn’t comfortable going through the middle; and the overall lack of creativity highlighted the fact that we just don’t have a gifted playmaker in the current squad.

In the Jack Charlton era, we had the likes of Liam Brady, Ronnie Whelan, Ray Houghton and John Sheridan, all of whom could open things up from midfield. There was no one in the middle of the park on Saturday with the ability to look up and spot a 20 or 30 yard pass. Even with Robbie Keane and John O’Shea restored to the team, we’re still going to have that problem when we meet Switzerland.

There may be a long-term solution in Sean Thornton who’s looking increasingly assured at Sunderland, but there’s no way you can throw a kid in the deep end in a game like that. What I would do, though, is have him as an option on the bench if things aren’t going our way.

Brian Kerr’s tactics were sound enough, although personally I’d have had Kevin Kilbane on the left, Gary Doherty and David Connolly down the middle, and Damien Duff on the right, where he’s most effective. I know it ain’t pretty – and I guess I’m biased! – but there’s a lot to be said for having a big bloke in the box who can either knock it down or hold it up. Everybody goes on about Roy Keane, but Niall Quinn retiring was just as big a loss to the Ireland team.

Going back to the last World Cup, most of the goals we got were scored when he was on the park. Clinton Morrison has his strengths but heading the ball isn’t one of them. Gary Doherty showed with his goal against Albania that he can unsettle defences and Connolly is as good a finisher as we’ve got in the squad. I think they might have been able to do a job for us.

While his tackling and work rate made Matt Holland my man of the match on Saturday, Kevin Kilbane wasn’t far behind. He had a nightmare time of things at Sunderland with the crowd getting on his back, but on Saturday he looked very comfortable and full of running.

ABUSE HURTS

Players don’t usually admit it, but abuse from the terraces does affect them – particularly when it’s being hurled by their own supporters! It got so bad for me when I was at Celtic that I walked into Liam Brady’s office and asked him not to play me. “I may be your record signing,” I told him, “but at the moment I’m a hindrance to the rest of the team.” Eyebrows were raised when Kevin went to Everton on transfer deadline day, but David Moyes is the sort of manager who’ll praise him for what he’s doing right and generally boost his confidence. With some players, an arm round the shoulder is far more effective than a bollocking!

I was terribly saddened to hear that Richard Sadlier has been forced to quit the game. He was a great prospect and would have been a real addition to Ireland’s options upfront in the post-Quinn era. Now all that’s turned to dust on him.

I don’t know what sort of a pay-off he’s getting from Millwall, but when I was playing clubs were only obliged to give you six months wages – which, at Division One level, certainly isn’t going to make you financially secure for life. It can be very tough. When I was at Nancy, there was a French Under-18 lad who severed a nerve in his knee and couldn’t feel his foot. He had it in him to be another Anelka or Thierry Henry, but now he’s on handicap benefit.


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