The next boss must integrate himself into Irish football
Roy Keane is an intriguing option but shadow of Saipan might loom still too large for some
The consensus towards Martin O’Neill’s appointment as the next manager of the Republic of Ireland team might allow it to turn into a painless exercise. Photograph: Ian Hodgson/Reuters
It’s over 10 years ago, but in January 2003 my appointment as Republic of Ireland manager brought an end to the period of speculation we are now re-entering.
Timing is my chief concern. With only four weeks until we face Germany in Cologne and considering John O’Shea and Richard Dunne are suspended we must give that fixture the respect it demands.
A competent interim manager is job one for John Delaney and the FAI. We must not allow our ranking to plummet during this transitional period. Otherwise the new man will be facing into the European championship qualifiers from a very weak position.
Even though it was being bandied about in the press and I was already the technical director, I doubted the FAI would turn to me in late 2002.
I went to Packie Bonner, who had been with Mick McCarthy, to ask if he would be willing to work with me if I got the job. Packie said yes.
Fintan Drury was advising me. We put out a statement confirming my interest in the position and that allowed me refocus on organising the underage teams, especially the under-20s who were bound for the United Arab Emirates.
Meet the candidates
Bryan Hamilton was appointed to meet the candidates individually. We met in Dublin and he told me it would take a while to get around to meeting the likes of Philippe Troussier, Bryan Robson, John Aldridge, Kevin Moran and Paul Jewel.
Kevin Fahey was the acting CEO at the time, following Brendan Menton’s departure. I played football with Kevin. John Delaney was there. So was Michael Cody and Milo Corcoran.
Those last three are still board members today and highly involved in the next step.
Roy Keane’s name, of course, is on the immediate short-list to replace Giovanni Trapattoni, along with Martin O’Neill, Brian McDermott and Mick McCarthy.
They are all enthusiastic, hard-grafting football men who would not select players from DVDs or training ground performances.
Roy is an intriguing option but there are negatives. Although it’s 11 years since Saipan a lot of the supporters who felt let down by Keane are still following the team. I saw them in Vienna.
That has to be a consideration but equally I think international management would suit Roy more than the club game. The intermittent dealings with players might be a snugger fit.
I was in Abu Dhabi when I got the call to go to London to meet the FAI board, who formally offered me the job. Chris Hughton joined, as my pitch had included having an English-based coach on my backroom team.
I remember having a map of Britain done out listing where every player was playing. Chris shared that load with me (it helped that Stephen Carr, Gary Doherty and eventually Andy Reid were coached by him at Spurs).
I didn’t have many dealings with board members thereafter. The silence was eventually deafening.
‘Leave me dangling’
After the Faroes game in June 2005, I was asked at a press conference what I thought about the lack of communication from the FAI about a new contract. I said, ‘I hope they don’t leave me dangling until the last match’.
I said it in a jocular manner. That was the headline written and it was also exactly what they did, they left me hanging until the last match against Switzerland. Delaney was the permanent CEO by then.
It will be very interesting to see what the process for finding a new manager will be.
The FAI will feel the last recruitment process, when Ray Houghton, Don Givens and Don Howe found their way to Trapattoni, was a successful blueprint.
I’d be surprised if Delaney goes hands on like he did with the Steve Staunton and Bobby Robson ticket. The consensus towards Martin O’Neill’s appointment may allow it to turn into a painless exercise.
The main priority is to get results and qualification but it should be the responsibility of the manager to be a beacon of hope throughout Irish football. There should be a buzz when he turns up at local matches.
We have to rebuild now. There is a lot of discontent among the grassroots. There is disarray in schoolboy football. The League of Ireland is in its worse shape since 1990.
The next manager doesn’t have to be Irish but he must integrate himself into Irish football. He doesn’t have to pick players from the League of Ireland. But he must get in among us. We need a leader of substance.