The rub of the green

 
 

Following a dissappointing end to the World Cup qualification campaign and Trapattoni’s exit, Kate Hanley asks if Ireland has the players or infrastructure for a new manager to succeed

The search is on for the next Republic of Ireland football manager after the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) confirmed the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni. The current World Cup qualifying campaign proved fruitless for the Irish footballing public and the pressure increased on the Irish manager after the squad suffered recent defeats against Sweden and Austria.

Despite starting off 2012 well, the Irish team’s performances due to the manager’s conservative style angered Irish fans. The Republic of Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for back-to-back major tournaments were left hanging by a thread after a damaging 2–1 defeat against Sweden.

Robbie Keane’s 60th international goal had put the hosts ahead, but Sweden were soon level through Elmander’s header before Svensson scored a second to secure all three points for the Scandinavians.

Ireland then took on Austria the following Tuesday in a must-win game. In a tight match, they conceded a late David Alaba goal to give the home side the three points and extinguish any hope that Ireland may have had for qualification of World Cup 2014.

After standing down Trapattoni spoke graciously. “I want to thank everyone in Ireland who has given us their support during our time here, which has always meant a lot to us.”

One key problem facing the next Irish manager is that they do not have the quality of players available to compete at the highest level. Stars of previous years are older now and are not playing in top leagues across Europe. The new pool of emerging talent is not of the same quality as was available to previous managers.

In recent times, Richard Dunne has been plagued with injury problems, the veteran Shay Given decided to retire from international football and Robbie Keane left the Premier League to play in Major League Soccer.

When the Irish manager is picking the squad for the national team it is very difficult for players playing in the Airtricity League, the top league in Irish soccer, to be chosen. Although these players feature at a relatively competitive level, they do not have the technical ability and skills to compete against other international sides.

Young Irish players looking for a career in professional football mainly travel across to England, with a hope of playing in the Premier League. However, only a lucky few are successful in signing for the top clubs, with many ultimately plying their trade in the lower divisions.

Irish players do not possess the technical ability that many of our European counterparts rely on. Elite footballing countries like Germany and Spain have committed huge resources to coaching their young players, and this investment has placed these nations at the top of not only European, but world football.

Most of the players who are turning out for the Irish national team are playing at a lower level and do not have access to the best coaching. This presents a huge challenge for the new Irish manager who must pick a team that can have hopes of qualifying for Euro 2016.

The new manager, whoever they may be, must take a look at all available players and hope to unearth a rough diamond or two for his squad. If not, they will face an uphill battle to qualify for major tournaments.

Giovanni Trapattoni was said to have never attended an Ireland underage game. This is a dangerous precedent and the new manager must give the youngsters a chance.

The new manager can take comfort in knowing that the European Championships in 2016 have been expanded to include 24 teams, which should make qualification that slight bit easier if they can find the blend of players and style of play to be successful.

Managers mentioned for the post include former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy, now at Ipswich Town, Brian McDermott of Leeds United and Chris Hughton who is managing Norwich City, but it is former Sunderland manager Martin O’Neill who has been installed as the front-runner to take over by the bookies.

His style of play and man-management skills look a perfect fit for the role, but any possible appointment will hinge on what Premier League managerial posts become available over the next few months, as rumours abound that O’Neill may desire a return to club management for his next job.

The FAI are obviously keen to take their time with this next appointment, and have decided to appoint Noel King, the Irish under-21 manager, as a stopgap for the senior side. King’s brief will be to see Ireland through our last two group matches, the first of which is a trip to a Germany side who boast superstars like Marco Reus and Mesut Özil.

King has said he begins the role with a clean slate and that all players will be considered for the squad. The next manager will find it difficult to reach the heights of Italia ‘90 and South Korea and Japan in 2002, but they knows they will have the support from Irish fans all over world. Irish players and fans will not mind waiting a little bit longer if it means John Delaney and the FAI can find the right man for the job this time.

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