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Stan up and be counted

The new Ireland boss acquitted himself well at his first press conference. But performances on the pitch are what really matter.

Tony Cascarino, 27 Jan 2006



It’ll obviously be results he’s judged on, but I thought Steve Staunton handled his unveiling as Ireland manager extremely well.

He certainly dispelled the notion of Sir Bobby Robson being forced on to him by the FAI, or of being in charge of a puppet regime where somebody else is pulling the strings.

I’d prefer it if he’d worked with Bobby before, but you got a sense at the press conference of them singing from the same hymn-sheet. I think Stan will use him as a scout, and a sounding board for the tactical ideas he has. As his dignified exit from Newcastle showed, Bobby’s not somebody who rocks the boat or tells tales to the tabloids. He’s a safe pair of hands who’s seen and done it all before, which can only benefit Steve as he gets to grips with the job.

People have said to me that the FAI should have gone for somebody like Guus Hiddink who’s got a proven track record of qualifying for tournaments, but how much would he know about Irish football? Yes, he did great things whilst in charge of Korea, but that was the result of a four-year plan structured around them automatically being in the World Cup as hosts. He didn’t have just seven months, and a handful of friendlies, to get his side ready for the European qualifiers.

There’s no way that Hiddink, or any other foreign coach who’s not connected to the Premiership, would have prior knowledge of promising young players like Kevin Doyle, Stephen Ireland and Joey O’Brien. Stan does, and has already gone on record as saying that he’ll be fast-tracking them and a few other new faces into the squad.

You only have to look at Bernie Vogts’ disastrous time in charge of Scotland to see what happens when you bring the wrong foreigner in. You had senior players retiring or pulling out of squads with spurious knocks, and very few SPL lads making their debut because it took Vogts a year to discover that places like Hamilton and Dunfermline existed!

One thing that jarred was Bobby Robson saying he’ll try to persuade Stephen Carr to come out of international retirement. A manager, or his advisor, shouldn’t have to beg players to turn out for their country. Particularly ones whose performances during the World Cup qualifiers weren’t a patch on Stephen Finnane’s.

I’d rather he concentrate on blooding somebody like Stephen Ireland who looked extremely comfortable during Manchester City’s derby win over United. True, the Man U midfield is possibly the weakest they’ve had under Fergie, but his tackling and passing were both good, and despite the highly competitive nature of the game there was no sign of him flagging at the end. He’s a bit lightweight physically, but makes up for it with his running ability and technique, which puts me in mind of Darren Fletcher.

I’ve already said that Kevin Doyle is a better option up front than Clinton Morrison, and he did nothing to change my mind last Friday when Reading drew with an in form Crystal Palace. He’ll need a season or two in the Premiership to become the finished article, but Doyle already has the look and confidence of a week in, week out goalscorer. He also stuck a couple of excellent balls into the box, which Robbie Keane would be highly appreciative of.

I’m less familiar with Joey O’Brien, but any player who meets Sam Allardyce’s exacting standards has got to be worth a place in Stan’s squad for the game against Sweden on March 1. I like what he’s said about using friendlies to have a look at youngsters like Kevin Doyle rather than confirming what we already know about Robbie and Damian.


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