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Time's Running Out For Stan

Having made wrong decisions in Bratislava and Prague, Steve Staunton has three games to save his job.

Tony Cascarino, 27 Sep 2007

In any discussion concerning Steve Staunton’s future, it’s worth pointing out that he was given a four-year contract by the FAI who didn’t necessarily expect Ireland to qualify for Euro 2008, but wanted to see clear signs that we’re capable of making it to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Unless the performances in our last three group games against Germany, Cyprus and Wales are significantly better, I’m afraid Steve will have to be sacked. Unlike Brian Kerr’s time in charge, which started off reasonably well and ended awfully, Ireland have improved during the course of this campaign, but only slightly which won’t satisfy John Delaney and his cronies.

It pains me to say it because Stan’s a good friend of mine, but his decision-making last week was poor. The questions that have to be asked are:

Why, after he was so lacking against Slovakia, did he stick with Aiden McGeady for the second game? He was like a Playstation footballer running into people and losing the ball.

Why wasn’t Stephen Kelly switched from right to left-back and John O’Shea from left to right so that they were playing in their preferred positions?

Why, of all the people he had on the bench, did he choose Gibson and Douglas to come on late against Slovakia? I think it’s wrong to bring your attackers off when you’ve only got a 1-0 lead, but if that’s what you opt for, you don’t replace them with two international novices. As soon as they came on we started giving the ball away, which led to our undoing. Come the FAI meeting in November to decide Stan’s future, you can be sure those substitutions will be thoroughly discussed.

I know he got sent-off against the Czechs, but not starting Stephen Hunt in either game was another mistake. Jack Charlton used the “he’s better coming off the bench” accusation against me, which was as wrong then as it is now in relation to Steve, who’s been a superb 90-minute man for Reading.

He’s 5ft 3”, so he’s not going to come on and terrorise defences like Peter Crouch.

If anyone should be a sub, it’s Stephen Ireland who for me still hasn’t demonstrated what his best position is, but is capable of nicking a goal.

Talking of Stephen, I think Sven’s “lying” comments were unduly harsh. He’s a 21-year-old lad whose thinking was muddled after receiving some tragic news. Now that an apology’s been issued, that should be the end of the matter.

While Richard Dunne, Kevin Doyle, Kevin Kilbane and the positively Kevin Moran-like Paul McShane were superb, I was disappointed again with Robbie Keane. He showed during the 2002 World Cup that he’s capable of delivering on the big stage, but in both Bratislava and Prague he went missing.

The difference between Ireland and Scotland – who, man for man, are no better than us – is that their big players have all consistently delivered. Robbie’s far superior to James McFadden as a striker, but I know which one I’d rather have in my side at the minute.

The mood among Irish supporters won’t have been lightened by England getting their own Euro 2008 qualifying campaign back on track, and particularly (against Russia) playing some superb football. Gareth Barry did more than enough to keep Owen Hargreaves and Frank Lampard out of the side, but for all of Emile Heskey’s good work, Steve McClaren has to replace him with Wayne Rooney, who’s the one England player who’d walk into the Brazil side. The bad news, I’m afraid, is that with him on board England are almost certain to be on their way to Austria and Switzerland next summer.

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