Building soccer success


When a new Republic of Ireland soccer team manager is appointed in coming weeks , one of his first tasks will be to face the media and explain his football philosophy. Every incoming manager in recent times has used this opportunity to raise expectations for future international success. On the basis of the recent dismal World Cup qualifying campaign, whoever follows in the footsteps of Giovanni Trapattoni might be best advised to offer a more downbeat assessment of Ireland’s prospects in future championships. Soccer supporters are past being hoodwinked that they have a team that can measure up to the best in Europe or that the only missing link in achieving qualification for major events is proper management and a more expansive tactical approach.

That kind of populist argument may have a home in the soap opera type analysis offered by TV pundits but more informed football supporters know that the path to rebuilding Ireland’s football fortunes will be longer and far more tortuous. The first step in that direction will be the appointment of a new manager but equally significant will be an acceptance that Irish coaching models, particularly at under age level, are outdated. It is to be hoped that the new FAI high performance director Ruud Dokter will be given licence to develop the kind of coaching programmes for elite players which have met with great success in Germany and Belgium .

For Ireland, the template for the current Belgian success may be the model to imitate. The country last qualified for the World Cup finals in 2002 and since then they have invested in advanced coaching techniques which have now borne fruit with a with a team of young and gifted players who will be formidable opponents next summer in Brazil.

Long-term planning and the development of sporting academies for elite young athletes have proved to be the cornerstone of success at Olympic level. The same is required in soccer but patience is not a virtue associated with the beautiful game.