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Stan And Deliver!

Kevin Doyle, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane all impressed as Steve Staunton’s reign as Ireland manager got off to the perfect start. Tony Cascarino examines how Euro 2008 qualification could be a little trickier though…

Tony Cascarino, 13 Mar 2006

While some journalists have been perhaps a little too gushing in their praise, Steve Staunton couldn’t have asked for a better start as Ireland manager.

It was essential, for both players and supporters that we consigned the Brian Kerr era to history and got a bit of belief back, which we did in extremely convincing style.

Yes, had it been a competitive game I think we’d have seen more from Sweden, but don’t forget that a lot of their lads were playing for World Cup places. They didn’t come for a stroll in the park, and would’ve known that a 3-0 pasting wouldn’t have gone down well with the folks back home.

They’re not a team that usually leaks goals, so for us to beat them that convincingly and keep a clean sheet was good going.

Stan hasn’t decided on his best 11 players yet, and will use the next couple of friendlies to try out different combinations, particularly up front where there are two or three options with regards to who’ll partner Robbie Keane.

I thought Kevin Doyle had a very solid debut. He’s good with both feet and head, takes up excellent attacking positions and doesn’t get caught offside every five minutes a la Clinton Morrison. Having seen how effortlessly he’s made the step up from the Eircom League to the Championship, I don’t think he’ll have any problems adjusting to the demands of the international game. The other big plus is that, barring a freak run of results, he’ll be playing in the Premiership next season with Reading.

Stephen Reid mightn’t be the most technically gifted of players, but him and John O’Shea got round the park well and wasn’t it lovely to see Damien Duff go past full-backs again! I was still in the Irish squad when Damien got his call-up, and loved watching him run rings round people in training. Maybe it’s because of the more defensive role Mourinho has him playing at Chelsea, but for the past couple of years he hasn’t been taking defenders on in the same way. Stan will appreciate his defensive contribution, but encourage him to show that flair off a bit more.

I’m delighted he’s made Keane captain because what Robbie needs more than anything else at the moment is responsibility. He’s not the young kid who was at Wolves and went to Milan. He’s a senior pro who’s got to knock the strops and the sulks on the head, and deliver game in, game out. With Stan on one hand and Martin Jol on the other demanding more from him, I think Robbie Keane can become the outstanding international player he’s threatened but not quite managed to be over the past couple of years.

Good performance or not, it doesn’t alter the fact that we’re still going to have a tough time of things in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. A few more gears need to be stepped up before we can be confident of making it to Austria and Switzerland.

McCarthy Witch Hunt
While I like Mick McCarthy, he can’t have too many complaints about being sacked as Sunderland manager. They were always likely to struggle, but to have amassed just 10 points is dismal.

Mick will say he wasn’t given enough money to spend in the transfer market, but neither was Paul Jewell and Wigan are pressing for a European place.

The bottom line is that, unlike Paul Jewell or the other manager who brought his side up last year, Alan Pardue, Mick has bought badly.

If you look at his ‘star’ signings, John Stead never made the grade at Blackburn; Rory Delap is mediocre; and Bassila, the lad they got from Strasbourg, has been completely anonymous.

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