The FAI are about as capable of directing the interests of Irish international football as Eamonn Dunphy is of keeping quiet.
The appointment by the FAI of Steve Staunton as manager of the Republic of Ireland international football team has once again demonstrated the capability of those who walk the corridors of Merrion Square to professionally handle the responsibilities necessary for an international football team to progress on the international or world stage.
Let us be openly straight and honest about this current situation, the FAI are about as capable of directing the interests of Irish international football as Eamonn Dunphy is of keeping quiet and that is by no means of any disrespect to Eamonn Dunphy. Time and time again the FAI have made one debacle after another, as one crisis runs immediately into another and Irish soccer, be it at a national or international level, is once again placed under the microscope and seen for what it really is.
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Donít blame Steve Staunton for the catastrophe that came out of the Cyprus mauling, he was a player who done his country proud, gave it his all, but has shown that he is not qualified enough at this moment in time to manage an international football team at this level and the FAI and only the FAI are to be blamed for what has resulted out of this appointment. In all of the FAIís history the only sound appointment ever made by the association was the appointment of Jack Charlton and that appointment came with the conditions laid down by Charlton prior to his appointment. The sacking of Brian Kerr was another example of the FAIís hunger for massive financial gain instantly at the expense of building up a sound squad of players who would over time resurrect the glory days of times gone When you look at the GAA, no matter how much you complain about their refusal to allow soccer into their stadium, (on a permanent basis) you must agree with one thing, the FAI has nothing to offer sport other than the financial gains for those who occupy the corridors of Merrion Square. Irish soccer is a business first and everything that comes after that is for the people.
The Charlton days gave us a belief that soccer was of the people and out of that belief the FAI sang all the way to the bank. What we now find is that the FAI have consistently time after time made controversial appointments and decisions without any professional standard of reasoning attached to its decisions. It is time the whole business of international football was taken out of the hands of the FAI in order to allow them to concentrate on the progression of junior and intermediate soccer in Ireland. When the association can prove to itself, the professional football players who wear their countries colours and the supporters who spend vast sums of money following their team, that they are ready to act as the representative body of Irish soccer, then and only then should the FAI be considered in having any association with international football.
The merging of the FAI and IFA would possibly lay to rest the public perception that the FAI is an association of people with personal vested interests over the interests of soccer at all levels throughout the country. The merging would allow a greater pool of players to be made available for selection and would give the international team a better chance of competing in major soccer tournaments. Most importantly it would help break down the barriers that have caused so much division in Northern Ireland for far too long. It would possibly find no support within Merrion Square as the power of the merry men is diluted by those coming onto the board from a foreign state.
Look at it as simply as this, if a plumber went into an operating theatre and tried to tell the surgeon how to conduct an operation what do you think the surgeon would say or think about the situation? Once again just like the surgeon in the operating theatre the FAI try to secure the services of top class professional players to play under their commercial banner that is packaged as soccer, but support those services with a yellow pack money scrimping attitude. Why should players who play every week in the English premiership or First Division play on a team that has been provided with a yellow pack backup and support service by an association whose coffers will swell should that team show any progress. Roy Keane exposed the sham that is the FAI and it is the FAI and only the FAI who could appoint an individual, who despite all his enthusiasm in working for success of Irish soccer, is in reality currently not at an international football managerial stage to take on the task required of him.
I feel sorry for Steve Staunton for he is a nice guy with the interest of Irish soccer and its fans at heart, and itís the shame of the FAI to have even considered appointing Steve at this stage in his football career. If their thoughts were for the building of a new squad for the future then the most logical decision would have been to either appoint an experienced manager or retain Brian Kerr as the Irish person capable of doing such a task. Letís us not forget that Brian Kerrís record as an international manager at this level is indeed very impressive. Luck did not go his way, but there again luck does not go the right way for some of the most successful teams in world soccer. Kerr was not given enough time to build a team for the future, just as Steve Staunton will be shown the same door when the big heads in FAI headquarters see the bank account remain the same and they come out with another Irish style lame duck excuse and apology for the decision they had to take ď in the interest of Irish soccerĒ.
Steve says he is not walking away from the job but the lads in the FAI at their next round the table meeting will be conjuring up methods in which to move poor old Stevie on, should he fail to deliver the financial goods for them. Steve says he is in for ďthe long haulĒ , donít count your chickens Steve, for should we fail to qualify for Euro 2008 (and that lookís certain now) then Iím afraid, just like humpty dumpty you wont fall of your own choosing, you will be pushed.
I hate having to come back to Roy Keane, but as far back as 1990 and even earlier Keane exposed what many others were either afraid to say what they really thought or were just too caught up in the glitter of the FAIís travelling band of merry men.
Keane made it plain and clear that the debacle in Saipan was just a single episode in the failure of the FAI to professionally manage the interests of professional football players on an international or world stage As was exposed by many a newspaper, some of the FAIís friends, wives and husbands enjoyed better accommodation facilities than the players who played for both their country and the financial gains of the FAI. When you think about the delays and debates that surrounded the rebuilding of Lansdowne Road for both soccer and rugby and then consider the future expansion of the stadium should it be needed, the only conclusion one could come too is that Lansdowne Road as a suitable venue to host major sporting events is totally unsuitable due to the location of the stadium within surrounds residential areas. It has huge implication for the commercial activities of the entire city as roads are sealed off by the Gardai in order to allow the free movement of fans on the immediate roads surrounding the stadium. People with absolutely no interest in soccer are having their commuting disrupted as buses are delayed or re-routed in order to cater for the massive amount of people descending upon a local area. Motorists are exposed to drunken fans outside licensed premises, drinking and standing on sidewalks and roads throughout the city. We are going to build an Eircom stadium outside the boundaries of the city say the FAI, oh now were not, oh yes we are, itís a great plan, oh no it is not we will redevelop Lansdowne Road. Backwards and forwards the FAI made a simple decision become a major decision that added to the eventual cost of their final decision.
The final decision will, in the long run prove to be the most costliest decision they have ever taken and will result in the association in the future (if they are still around) deciding to build a new stadium beyond the boundaries of the city where they can expand and grow their facilities in response to an ever growing population combined with their ever demanding need to provide all the services in one location, necessary to cater for such huge numbers of people converging into one area. Look at the mayhem and inconvenience that surrounds Croke Park every time a major event takes place. Look at how one section of the city has to come to a halt and how that halts ripple to every other part of the city. Our road infrastructure is not capable of handling or supporting either the vast numbers of vehicles converging on the city or the numbers of people congregating into one area. It is not fair on the people who reside in the immediate areas and it is definitely not fair on those who just need to commute or walk either for business or pleasure within our city. The new Lansdowne Road stadium will only add to the inconvenience to everybody, including the commuting fans as they clammer for available parking spaces or public transport facilities surrounding the stadium.
It is time for the FAI to hand over responsibility of international soccer to an independent boards of professional football players who have the practical and experienced football knowledge in order to be able to appoint a manager capable of leading an international team into the future. It is up to professional football players to say enough is enough, we are not prepared to give our skills in order to promote Irish soccer, our country and our people to the rest of the world if you as an association act in a manner unprofessional to our skills. We are not prepared to be controlled by those who have no practical professional football experience and we most certainly will not play under a banner that has as much interest in the development of our international team as Noddy has in leaving toy town. Keane and Dunphy gave us their opinion of Irish soccer and for that the majority of Irish people and loyal soccer supporters turned on them as being unpatriotic and not speaking in the interests of Irish soccer. The sacking of Brian Kerr and the appointment of both Mick McCarty and Steve Staunton has proved that the FAI are incapable of making sound and logical decisions that work at least one in ten cases. The appointing of Bobby Robson as technical adviser to Steve Staunton should have at least told the FAI that at this stage in his career, Steve was not ready to take on the responsibility of managing an international football team.
Ireland will not qualify for Euro 2008, should they qualify with the help of all the saints in heaven then it will be at the expense of a team that in reality should have been there by virtue of its ability to perform as required. Ireland has shown that it has not really come out of the rag tag days of just about making it, if only. The appointing of managers in the past like Johnny Giles and we wont talk about Owen Hand, have shown that there is something fundamentally wrong within the powers of the FAI. Why so many managers have failed or have not been given the time in order to develop the international team is a trait that seems to follow the FAI around no-matter where it goes. If they can allow the international soccer team crumble to the stage it is at this moment, what does it say for our junior football or the Eircom league. We ask questions about the progress of Irish soccer and the problems associated with people attending League of Ireland soccer matches, it appears all the roads lead to Merrion Square and Merrion Square appears to be blaming everything and everybody else except themselves.
Like Peteís peanuts, Staunton must be preparing his team for a roasting next week, which will just about put the second last nail in his coffin. For the sake of Irish soccer the FAI should internally examine itself and diagnose itself sick with a terminal disease that should warrant another shuffle, a change or at best handover to people who really know and understand soccer and who are not accountants or friends of friends who make up a board as effective as a sheet of tissue paper holding back a deluge of water.
Irish soccer is in decline, we have the players, we have the passion and commitment but we do not have an orginisation that is capable of developing a real positive direction for Irish soccer into the 21st Century. The FAI is a 20th Century association with 20th Century values and ideals. It is incapable of leading Irish soccer to stage where its position within world soccer is complimented by the very size of the country and the population of the people in Ireland. The players have shown in the past that they can stand and perform on the world stage. Past managers like Charlton and Kerr have shown they can bring the best out of players, so what else is needed and what else is wrong? I look forward to next weeks match, if only to see another crisis emerge from Merrion Square as they squirm and shuffle to hang someone out to dry, as they dive for cover until the next show fails to sells seats. The sale of corporate boxes to yuppies and the difficulties experienced by long time soccer fans in securing tickets for an international matches because of the FAIís greed in selling tickets to the highest corporate bidders, will at last be resolved as the corporate sector find no advantage in supporting failures and the ordinary fans once again make up the tide of supporters filling one stand in Lansdowne Road.
We all wish Steve well and we all wish he could find success in his efforts to qualify for 2008, there again we all wish we won the lotto and look how hard that is to achieve. When this Euro 2008 group has finally been settled, we must look to the future by changing things that have bedevilled Irish soccer for far too long and in doing so, lay the foundations for the development of a successful team and the future of Irish soccer as a whole.