Leading Ireland a crowning achievement for passionate and thorough King
According to Brian Kerr, Republic of Ireland interim manager Noel King’s jovial manner this week with the media has somewhat concealed the competitive zeal and no-holds-barred approach which makes him the correct choice man to guide Ireland through the current at this juncture. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Noel King, as well liked a man as you could find in Irish football circles, has gone about his business of interim manager this week with the passion and intelligence that has hallmarked his career.
But his jovial manner with the media has concealed the competitive zeal and no-holds-barred approach which makes him the correct man to guide Ireland at this juncture.
It’s a pity any possibility of Noel keeping the job was so quickly dismissed by John Delaney.
Noel has been sensible and has already done much of the donkey work for the permanent manager by re-integrating Darron Gibson, Anthony Stokes and Andy Reid while also making overtures for Stephen Ireland to return.
Such talent cannot be ignored. Not with our limited pool of talent. And especially during this low period in our footballing history.
The outcasts do have chinks in their armour but they deserve to be ahead of many Trapattoni favourites.
King has made some big calls by omitting Simon Cox, Conor Sammon and Darren O’Dea. O’Dea and Cox were part of the disastrous starting XI that lost 6-1 to Germany in Dublin.
I have great sympathy for King as he attempts to familiarise himself with the squad while putting in place a new formation and tactics. Matching up to one of the top three teams in the world is the biggest challenge of his storied coaching career. To find the isolation and time to settle on a starting team and approach is never easy.
One thing’s for sure, those picked will know exactly what their responsibilities are.
That was not the case the last time against the Germans. Keith Fahey was in the middle of a three-man midfield flanked by Keith Andrews and James McCarthy but it was obvious none of them were given instructions about dealing with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Sami Khedira, or Mesut Ozil in his advanced number 10 role.
We were overrun through the middle and everywhere else on that black night.
The good news is only Séamus Coleman, McCarthy and possibly Aiden McGeady will reappear tonight.
The Germans have also changed a little, with Marcel Schmelzer and Marco Reus, the Dortmund pair who ran amok down the left side in Dublin, out injured.
Joachim Löw has an abundance of alternatives. Philipp Lahm, Toni Kroos, the excellent Julian Draxler of Schalke and Chelsea’s André Schürrle are likely to feature, and probably sparkle, tonight.
How do we prevent Germany’s power over-running us again? The 4-2-3-1 system will often become 4-5-1 as the home side dominates possession but that system should allow sufficient support to the lone front man – Robbie, if fit – when we do get on the ball.
The absence of suspended veteran defenders John O’Shea and Richard Dunne leaves us vulnerable at the back. Coleman, Ciaran Clark, Damien Delaney and Stephen Kelly will be protected by holding duo Gibson and Marc Wilson, or possibly Glen Whelan, but don’t expect much respite.
Gibson and McCarthy should at least ensure greater ball retention, as King has stressed its importance.
Robbie, as the lone front man, is not ideal but Stokes’ form for Celtic means the captain may not be in complete isolation. Anthony Pilkington in a wide role will also be interesting to see against against this level of opposition.
Impressed at training
I’m sure Andy Reid has impressed at training and within the group this week. He is a smashing character who was treated abysmally and unfairly by the previous regime. He looks in good shape and should have some role to play in the second half.
I often left my final decision on selection until the morning of the game. I’m sure Noel is doing the same. Maybe it is taking the phase “sleeping on it” too far but it worked for me. Hopefully it will for him.
Regardless of the team that starts and tactical set-up we will struggle to deal with the movement and touch of Thomas Müller, Ozil, Kroos combined with the sheer force of Schweinsteiger and Khedira.
The Germans will want qualification wrapped up before the trip to Sweden on Tuesday.
But there are flaws. They have conceded 13 goals in their last four matches. Their attacking style sees their fullbacks go forward at the same time while Schweinsteiger and Khedeira also push high up the pitch. This leaves gaps down the side and in front of the centre backs that can be exploited by a clinical counter attack.
Over to Stokes, Pilkington and Keane then to profit from the undoubted passing ability of Gibson and McCarthy.
More than anything I’d love to see Noel King’s dedication to Irish football get its reward with a positive result in Cologne tonight.
Sometimes dreams do come true.
And then Ruud Dokter and Ray Houghton may have someone else they need to talk to who is a bit closer to home.