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Stan can be the man

Mild mannered or not, Steve Staunton won't take any nonsense if he's appointed Ireland manager.

Tony Cascarino, 12 Jan 2006

At the time of writing, Steve Staunton looks almost certain to be confirmed as the new Ireland manager, with Bobby Robson assisting him in an advisory capacity.

My reaction, to be honest, is one of surprise. I shared my testimonial with him, and never had any inkling that he wanted to go into management, but he knows a lot of the players still involved and will have their respect because of his own abilities on the pitch.

Stan's a quiet guy, but no pushover. My first memory of him as a 19-year-old was telling his Liverpool teammates, John Aldridge and Ronnie Whelan, to "fuck off!" when they ordered him to go and get the tea. He didn't take shit from people then, and he won't take shit from them now.

Steve's youth and relative lack of managerial experience make it a brave decision on the FAI's part, but he obviously interviewed well and convinced them he was a better option than the other former players who went for the job.

The first thing he should do, selection wise, is call up Kevin Doyle of Reading. I've watched him a couple of times this season, and he's a far better all-round player than Clinton Morrison. The other lad who should be capped sooner rather than later is Manchester City’s Stephen Ireland. People bemoan the lack of new Irish talent coming through, but they’re both excellent prospects who can help put a spring back in our steps.

Another team desperately in need of a boost are Celtic. The one tiny bit of solace that Gordon Strachan can take from their cup humiliation is the quality of Roy Keane's performance.

Despite having not played competitively since September, he was comfortable with the pace of the game and came up with a couple of defence splitting passes that, but for the ineptness of his teammates upfront, could have got them out of jail.

It was a crime to see somebody with such a huge amount of talent in a side that, if they were playing in England, would struggle to stay in the Premiership. The back four, in particular, were a complete disgrace and need radical overhauling if Celtic aren’t to crash straight out of Europe again next season. They’re actually a worse side than they were when Gordon took over, which will inevitably lead to questions being asked by the board.

Being the new boy, I imagine Roy let the manager do the talking in the dressing room, but inwardly he must have been fuming. It’s obvious to anyone with half a brain that Celtic aren’t as good a footballing side as Man U, but he’ll have been shocked by the number of misplaced passes and other unforced errors.

From the Celtic body language you’d have thought that they were playing a pre-season friendly, not defending a cup competition they’ve won for the past two years.

The suggestion in some quarters is that Gordon didn’t really want him at Parkhead, but everything I’ve heard from my Glasgow contacts suggests the opposite.

He knows that Roy’s keeping of the ball is second to none, which Celtic desperately need right now, and though he’s not as mobile as he was a few years ago he can still tackle. If he really didn’t want Keano there, Gordon’s quite capable of doing what George Burley did at Hearts and walking out.

Motivation-wise, a guy who gets upset if he loses at 5-a-side isn’t going to have any problems geeing himself up for a visit to Livingstone. Roy’s not the sort of player who moans about pitches and grounds not being worthy of his talents. In fact, because he’s such a masochist I think he’ll enjoy it!

The one person who doesn’t seem too thrilled by Roy’s arrival is Neil Lennon. Gordon’s not going to change the formation to accommodate them both, which seeing as Keane’s the better player leaves Lennon out in the cold and telling the press that he wouldn’t mind a return to the Premiership.

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