Niall Quinn believes Government investment vital to nurture homegrown talent

‘We’ve got to think differently now about how players are produced’

A year after he played a part in securing the financial support required to stave off the prospect of insolvency, Niall Quinn believes the FAI needs substantially more Government money if it is to look beyond surviving the current pandemic and be able to invest in dealing with the challenges presented by Brexit.

The need for clubs here to step into the space created by the ban on 16-year-olds moving to English academies is a pressing one, he believes, but substantial investment is required if young Irish talent is to be properly nurtured at home. And the game needs to present a more united front, he feels, if Government is to be persuaded to provide it.

“We’ve got to think differently now about how players are produced but given where the association is and the financial pressures that are on it, it really needs a boost, it needs an injection and it needs a plan,” he said on Monday at an event to promote the return of Virgin Media’s Champions League coverage this week and a two-part extended interview with him, Bootroom to Boardroom, the first half of which airs at 10.15 on Wednesday night on Virgin Media Two.

“The spotlight has been on Irish football for two years now but somewhere through all the bad stories, I think people understand the importance of grassroots football more now, particularly with the pandemic.

"The end of the John Delaney regime left a lot of parts of the FAI at loggerheads with each other. I just wanted people to understand that there was a need to come together . . . because that would go a long way towards getting Government to go even further than they've gone up to this point.

“As it is, they’ve saved the game, they’ve saved the association. Now, can they see enough there, in terms of unity, in terms of what we have to do, to refinance it to the point where those fears are addressed.”

The former international says he is encouraged by supportive comments made by the Minister of State for Sport Jack Chambers last week but, he suggests, "it won't be done overnight".

One way he still believes the Government might reasonably provide the money required is through the allocation of revenue from betting on the sport, something he has long advocated, although he feels gambling itself also needs to be better regulated.

In the meantime, he says, he is hopeful that the senior international team's results will improve under Stephen Kenny when the World Cup campaign gets under way next month but he accepts that the manager could do with one of his young strikers growing into the role more quickly than is entirely reasonable to expect.

"About a year ago, the one I was watching the most was Troy Parrott, " he says. "You could see that he has really good ability and you thought: 'Wow he's got something, this fella'. Obviously he's been injured since and his loan at Millwall didn't work out, but he's back in bloom again so hopefully that will go well for him.

"Adam Idah will be a player, I hope. With Stephen having faith in him and him being in and around the team I hope he'll become a little more streetwise as a centre forward this year. Coming in and having all that raw ability is fine but you get cuter; it's self confidence, a goal here or there makes you cuter . . . You have to work out 'how I get more'."

His son, he says, recently compiled some clips off YouTube of his own early days at Arsenal and the 54-year-old good naturedly admits to having been slightly shocked by how poor he generally looked. One of the many ways in which the club sought to bring him on, he recalls, was by suggesting he go to see Tottenham play Manchester United and focus on Mark Hughes.

"I'd ask Idah, if I saw him, to have a look at Harry Kane, " he says now. "Don't be afraid to look at people like that, study them. I'd urge players to think a little bit outside the box, to arm themselves more. Look at the better players who are out there today, study them as much as you can [and ask yourself] 'what can I do and how can I be like that?' I'd ask players to do that."

Getting the game time required at club level to develop into a player who is comfortable at international level is, he says, however, harder than ever and as players like Parrott and Idah try to complete the journey, he suggests: “we all need to be more understanding”.

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