Staunton departs after long night of intrigue

 

FAI chief executive John Delaney will play no part in appointing a successor to Steve Staunton who was relieved of his duties as Republic of Ireland manager early this morning.

Delaney led a three-man FAI sub committee charged with finding a successor to former manager Brian Kerr and was the key player in Staunton's appointment 21 months ago.

But following last week's 1-1 home draw with Cyprus, Delaney distanced himself from that appointment. It was a move that drew criticism from many quarters.

Steve Staunton and his assistant, Kevin McDonald, leaving the pitch after Ireland's draw with Cyprus earlier this month.

Staunton was furious with Delaney and on Monday told his backroom team that he no longer felt he had his employer's support.

Still, he was determined so see out the two remaining years of his contract. But that will not happen following a long night of intrigue in the capital.

"I accept the majority of the responsibility for my part in the appointment," Delaney told a press conference in the early hours.

"The decision was made in good faith and we had a four year plan but the results have made it impossible to continue with that.

"I'm disappointed for Stephen and his family, (coach) Kevin MacDonald, (goalkeeping coach) Alan Kelly, the fans and the football community. We did have a four year plan and there were assurances given to Stephen Staunton but because of recent results and performances we've been forced to change."

Delaney said he welcomed the procedures now in place to appoint people with "considerable football experience in the professional game" to unearth the next manager.

Crucially, though, Delaney stressed he would play no part in the selection.

"I will not have a direct role in relation to the appointment," said the chief executive who stressed that his role was one of an administrator.
 
"We will let football professionals go and deal with the appointment of our next manager."

In the meantime, under-21 manager Don Givens will take charge of the senior team for their final Group D European qualifier against Wales in Cardiff next month.

He acted as caretaker five years ago for a game in Greece prior to Kerr's appointment but is not likely to receive the job full-time.

His under-21 team have a European qualifier of their own in Montenegro on November 16th, the night before the Cardiff game, but he will not oversee that game.

That responsibility will be entrusted elsewhere, perhaps to Ireland 'B' manager Pat Devlin who retains his role in the Irish set-up.

Bobby Robson is set to stay on as International Football Consultant, but that role will come to an end after the Wales game next month.

Staunton was sacrificed following a string of sub-par results and performances during the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.

Officially the 38-year-old and the association agreed to part by "mutual consent" but there is no hiding from the fact Staunton was relieved of his post

FAI President David Blood thanked Staunton and his management team for their "dedication and commitment" to the senior international team since their appointment in January 2006.

"They have brought through many young players and leave behind a squad with strong development potential," said Blood. "As a member of the three man committee which made the recommendation to appoint Stephen and his team, I am disappointed that things have not worked out the way I, Stephen or my colleagues on the Board expected."

When the FAI's Board of Management met with Staunton last night it was away from the hotel at which journalists had gathered.

Reporters concluded the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Santry, Dublin would host the board meeting, but instead the 10-man committee met the manager at Dublin Airport's Radisson Hotel.

An FAI official had reserved two conference rooms at the Crowne Plaza but by teatime Staunton and his employers had failed to show. FAI security officials were, however, present at the Santry hotel.

Staunton flew in from Birmingham to attend the Radisson meeting in person and it is said to have lasted half an hour. The FAI board then reconvened to another, unknown location - without Staunton - and the 10 members of the committee discussed the manager's fate for approximately six hours.

The length of that meeting would suggest some board members fought Staunton's case although Delaney attempted to play this down.

He said discussions were always amicable and that a range of topics were discussed, not just Staunton's position.

Staunton's predecessor, Brian Kerr, was not afforded the luxury of putting his case to his employers when he lost his job two years ago and is critical of the FAI's role in this latest episode.

"They do their business in mysterious ways, it's smoke and mirrors stuff and it's hard to give them any credit," he told Newstalk.

"They have been found out big time on this one. There are two or three decent ones in there but the majority of them you wouldn't allow to mind your corner shop for 10 minutes.

"They are regularly making the vital decisions with regard to Irish football and to our international teams and underage teams. I think it's kind of sad considering their lack of real knowledge of the game."

Staunton won just six of his 17 games in charge. Two of those victories came against lowly San Marino and another two came in friendly games against Sweden and Denmark.

At times the manager was without injured key players yet his tactical naivety was repeatedly exposed. Baffling team selections and bizarre mid-game decision-making has formed his legacy.

But it was last week's disastrous home draw with Cyprus that hammered the final nail in Staunton's coffin. The 5-2 defeat in Nicosia last year followed by the narrow 2-1 win in San Marino earlier this ensured the manager was living on borrowed time.

Staunton has joined forces with Michael Kennedy, the solicitor who acts for Roy Keane, and the opening of talks over severance terms was discussed last night.

It is expected the 38-year-old will receive a bumper payment of over €800,000 while his backroom team will also receive a severance package.

It is unknown whether Staunton was made sign a confidentiality agreement but the manager is seething over the lack of support afforded to him and could not be blamed if deciding to forgo a slice of the severance money in order to vent his spleen.

Staunton made no comment on the matter last night and it remains to be seen where he goes from here.

He may find it difficult to land another managerial role in the near future but Delaney said Staunton will find "opportunities in time".

"It's a question for Stephen what he wants to do going forward in life," said Delaney.

"I know he's doing his Uefa A badges and intends finishing off his pro-licence after that. He's a young man, younger than I am. And I'm sure if he wants to stay in football he will find opportunities in time."