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Stan by your man

Defeat to Chile was a set-back but ultimately this was a meaningless friendly – there’s no need to panic quite yet

Tony Cascarino, 01 Jun 2006

OK, so we lost to Chile. It’s nothing to panic about, though. If I’ve ever seen a meaningless May friendly, that was it. The 3-4-3 experiment obviously didn’t work, but I think Stan wanted to have a look at certain players in certain positions. I doubt very much whether he’ll try it again. It’s impossible to learn anything from a game like that. At the end of May, players don’t want to be there, it’s that simple. The last thing you want to do at the end of a long season is go away from your family who you haven’t seen much all year.

When you had Jack and Mick in charge, they used to drag us to the USA every summer, but Jack was very aware that we’d played a long season, and it was always quite relaxed. We played to win, we weren’t taking the piss, but we went out and had a few drinks as well. In a friendly, the result is irrelevant. It counts for absolutely nothing, and I can’t for the life of me understand why we play them. The FAI needs the revenue, that’s all.

It was notable that Sir Bobby did most of the talking at the press conference, but again, I don’t see any cause to panic there. We lost the game, and I think Stan just wanted to take a step back from the spotlight. The performance was poor. We never got going: the Chileans were technically quite good, it was difficult. It’s a Catch 22 with friendlies: you want to get something out of them, but you hardly ever do. It’s a nightmare situation for managers.

It was one of those days where no-one was really producing anything from anywhere, wide or down the middle. The biggest problem was, there seemed to be no-one in the box. It’s fair to say Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle didn’t really click. I felt quite sorry for Kevin, 'cause Robbie didn’t have a particularly good game. Historically, Robbie has had a difficult time playing with partners. They didn’t seem to read each other or to work in tandem. You want to get them into a telepathic partnership, and it didn’t happen on the night. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen in the future.

Robbie’s not the easiest to play with, which isn’t a criticism: he’s very unpredictable, and that’s a massive strength in certain respects. But the player alongside him needs to know what he’s going to do, and to have played regularly with him. It’ll take time for Kevin to get used to it, but I think he’ll be fine. He needs to get a few games under his belt, and it’ll help to have him in the Premiership next season. Every level that he’s jumped up to so far, he’s succeeded. You can’t expect every player who puts on a green shirt to start off with a shining performance. He’ll be OK.

There was one plus: Aidan McGeady looks the part. He offers something a little bit different, he goes past people and cuts inside. He needs to deliver the ball a bit earlier at times, but we want people who can beat their man and dribble, and he’s got that. Robbie will probably benefit a lot from that, 'cause he seems to work well with other players who do the unexpected.

The biggest question mark is central defence. Kenny Cunningham’s gone, and Gary Breen isn’t the force he was. We know Richard Dunne’s a class act, and Andy O’Brien can do a job. It’s a problem area, no question. Stan needs to really do his homework and maybe look at manoeuvering one or two people around.

Steven Reid out wide on the right didn’t work either. He’s very heads-down when he plays as a winger, he tends to just knock it down and run past people using his pace and power. He’s done very well in central midfield for Blackburn, so that’s probably the way to go.

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