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Stan by your man

Eamon Dunphy’s call for Steve Staunton’s sacking is both ill-judged and ill-timed.

Tony Cascarino, 30 Aug 2006

Eamon Dunphy’s an intelligent man, but he doesn’t half hide it well sometimes. Calling for Steve Staunton to be sacked before a competitive ball’s been kicked is stupid and does nobody, least of all Eamon, any favours.

That said, I do think Stan got it wrong tactically against Holland. The word from inside the Ireland camp is that he wants to emulate the Liverpool side he was part of in the ‘90s and play expansive, free-flowing football – fine if you’ve got the personnel, but we obviously didn’t on Wednesday with Richard Dunne, Damian Duff, Robbie Keane and Shay Given absent. Instead of taking a leaf out of Big Jack’s book and getting stuck into the Dutch, he tried to beat them at their own game, which you’re never going to do with Robben and Van Persie on the pitch. If ever there were two players you don’t want to give time and space to, it’s that pair.

After 45 minutes of chasing shadows, you could tell that our lads were totally demoralised and couldn’t wait to get off the pitch.

I was part of the Ireland team that was beaten 4-1 in 1985 by Denmark, and by the end of the game I was almost willing myself to get injured so that I could hobble off and avoid further embarrassment. Like that night in Copenhagen, we had our arses smacked from start to finish at Lansdowne last week. In midfield especially, there was no leadership with Andy O’Brien and John O’Shea both playing too much as centre-halves, and presenting the Dutch with a soft touch. Graham Kavanagh isn’t the greatest player to pull on the green jersey by any stretch of the imagination, but he keeps things flowing and enables the players around him to do their jobs. I’d definitely start him in midfield against Germany. Also worth a place in the starting-up is Kevin Doyle who didn’t get much of a look in against Holland, but was excellent for Reading in their first Premiership game against Middlesbrough. His overall contribution to the team is far greater than Clinton Morrison’s at Palace, and he knows the offside rule! Another big plus for Ireland is Andy Reid completing his move to Charlton. Being starved of football at Spurs did him no favours and in Ian Dowie he’s got a tracksuit manager who’ll work with him to develop his undoubted talents. And talking of Palace, I’ve been very impressed with Mark Kennedy’s early season form. A call from Steve and I’m sure he’d re-consider his decision to quit international football.

Getting back to Eamon Dunphy’s remarks – Steve Staunton can only be judged on his qualification campaign. He has to be given the full two years, after which a proper assessment can be made. A weakened Italy got beat 2-0 the same night by Croatia, and do you think anyone called for Roberto Donadoni’s head? Of course not. Let’s stop all this sacking nonsense, and give him a chance.

A question for you – what’s the difference between Chelsea tapping up Ashley Cole and Manchester United and Owen Hargreaves courting each other in public? The answer: none at all.

The amazing thing about the saga is that United, who say they’ve been tracking him for a couple of seasons, could have had Hargreaves for virtually nothing in January when he was out of contract at Bayern Munich. Instead, they wait till after the World Cup when his value has spiraled to between £15 and 20 million. Roy Keane left in November, so it wasn’t as if the timing was wrong or they didn’t realise they’d be a man down.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – Manchester United’s recent record in the transfer market has been diabolical. Cristiano Ronaldo aside, it’s been a long time since Alex Ferguson’s brought in a young bargain buy who’s taken the Premiership by storm.

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