Thursday, October 18, 2007

Can you hear that whirring sound?
Listen very carefully. That is the sound of spinning. On RTE Radio 1 – Drivetime Sport this evening John Delany was in grave danger of doing himself an injury such was the amount of spinning going on. Four times he passed up on opportunities to give Staunton his full backing.
‘Stephen Staunton is manager of the Irish team today’, was about as fulsome as it got.
Stan must be sleeping really well tonight.
Staunton is gone. Not today, and probably not tomorrow but sometime in the next week or so he’s gone.
Also, Delany laughable claimed that the FAI was unlucky to lose Bobby Robson to ill health. I mean who would have seen that one coming. They appoint a man to a senior management position a month before his 73rd birthday and then call it unlucky when the same man, who has been diagnosed four times with cancer in fifteen years, has to step down due to ill health!
The words boggle and mind I think.
Where now the forlorn promise to scour the globe for the world class manager that Irish soccer deserved?
Who are we kidding?
We are not a powerhouse of international football.
We are not and never have been world class.
In four appearances at major championship finals tournaments Rep of Ireland has played 16 matches, winning only three, with four defeats and nine draws. The Irish have amassed just nine goals in all 16 games. A Rep of Ireland team has only once scored more than one goal in a major finals match (the 3-0 win against the mighty Saudis) and achieved the remarkable feat of reaching the 1990 World Cup quarter finals without winning a match and scoring only two goals along the way.
At the 1994 World Cup in USA we managed only one goal in four games.
We are not a powerhouse of international football.
We are not and never have been world class.
We are a nation of just over 4 million people.
Try this.
If greater Manchester (pop. Approx. 4 million) was to secede from the UK and become a sovereign nation, would we expect them to repeatedly qualify for major finals? Would we expect them to take on nations like Netherlands, Germany, England, Spain or Italy and win more often than not? Unlikely.
The simple fact is that in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s we happened, against all the odds, to cobble together two teams that were capable of performing almost credibly on the world and European stage. This was done mainly by taking advantage of FIFA’s grandparent rule to offer the chance of international football to English players who were unlikely to ever get a call up from the FA. The teams we sent to Germany in ’88 and Italy in ’90 contained very few Irish born players or even players who had ever played football in this country.
At the 2002 World Cup finals we were a statistical oddity. Of 32 competing teams only Rep of Ireland sent a squad which did not contain even one player who played in his domestic league. This might seem odd until you consider that the Prime Minister of this country has two Eircom league teams based within a couple of miles of both his home and his office and yet he makes a virtue of supporting a team in the English Premiership, frequently travelling across the Irish Sea to attend Old Trafford, while Irish domestic soccer is dying a death on his doorstep.
EURO ‘88
• 1-0 v England
• 1-1 v Russia
• 0-1 v Netherlands
ITALIA ‘90
• 1-1 v England
• 1-1 v Netherlands
• 0-0 v Egypt
• 0-0 v Romania
• 0-1 v Italy

USA ‘94
• 1-0 v Italy
• 0-1 v Mexico
• 0-0 v Norway
• 0-2 v Netherlands

JAPAN / KOREA ‘02

• 1-1 v Cameroon
• 3-0 v Saudi Arabia
• 1-1 v Germany
• 1-1 v Spain