Ireland awaits special appointment

Posted by Gareth Maher

It appears that the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) wants to wrap up the appointment of their new manager quite quickly, although this is not a straightforward decision.

- Greatest managers: Trapattoni

- Delaney: Trapattoni's tumultuous reign

After moving swiftly to "mutually" agree to part ways with Giovanni Trapattoni after defeat to Austria in Vienna ended their World Cup hopes, the FAI is operating in second gear and ready to shift up another level now that billionaire Denis O'Brien has again agreed to co-fund the salary of the Ireland manager.

Even with O'Brien's funds and the potential to kick-start a new era for Irish football as the two big attractions to the job, all the talk is that the shortlist is so short that it only contains the name of Martin O'Neill -- the former Leicester City, Celtic, Aston Villa and Sunderland boss.

Undoubtedly, O'Neill is a credible candidate for the vacancy as his success rate in motivating average players to punch above their weight is admirable. But what's the rush? Why not take some time to scan the field (of managers out of work and currently tied to teams) and see who might be best suited to the role?

OK, nobody wants the FAI to take as long as they did to appoint Trapattoni back in 2008 after cutting Steve Staunton loose, as that saga stretched on for 107 days. Nevertheless, Ireland's two remaining World Cup qualifiers are meaningless, so there is no deadline rapidly approaching for them to have their new man signed, sealed and delivered to the media.

Besides, it is still unclear what the next man in needs to do. Will he simply be charged with qualifying for major tournaments? Or could this be the appointment that finally sees someone take over as a leader of the Irish international set-up? Until the FAI can answer that with clarity, then they need to slow down this process a little.

There has been a lot of talk over the last week about the senior team acting as a representative of the entire Irish footballing pyramid and that their poor results, and even worse performances, suggests that there is a significant crack at the core. Record goal scorer Robbie Keane stated that it restricts them from ever having anything other than "Plan A."

Well, the right manager can help to change that. But is that what he should be focusing his energy on? Or should the senior manager leave those kinds of duties to someone like Ruud Dokter, the FAI's newly appointed -- but yet to be unveiled -- high-performance director? Perhaps there needs to be influence from both men to address why the underage set-up is not running as smoothly as it could and how that affects the senior team.

Just for kicks, though, let's forget about all of that and look at the manager's position solely on the merits of someone who needs to shape a competitive team that will be in the mix to reach major tournaments. So who is the best candidate for that job? Many believe it to be O'Neill, who is out of work since March.

What the 61-year-old has in his favour is that he is available, experienced, seeking a new challenge, familiar with the Irish mentality due to his Derry upbringing, aware of many of the players, and in possession of a fine CV. Read all of that aloud to most Irish supporters and he sounds like the perfect fit.

Look a little closer, though, at his time in charge of his last four clubs and a pattern emerges of a man who, some might feel, plays predictable football. He may tinker with his formations a little more than Trapattoni did and speak a lot more clearly, but is O'Neill's style that different to the Italian's?

And that is why he should not be considered as the only man for the job.

If the FAI has learned anything from Trapattoni's five-and-a-half years, it should be that international football is about more than merely securing positive results. Obviously, results are the end goal, but it is how they are achieved that should worry the board of management, because modern football is as much about entertainment as it is winning games.

At this point, we should really be offering up names to rival O'Neill in what looks to be a one-horse race to the Ireland hot seat, but it's not that easy. Sure, you can throw in the out-of-work bunch (Roy Keane, David O'Leary, Alan Curbishley), the ambitious ones (Paul Clement, John Sheridan, Lee Carsley), and the same old names (Mick McCarthy, Graeme Souness, Liam Brady), but it needs to be someone special.

The FAI actually set the bar high for itself by landing Trapattoni back in 2008. At that time, speculation was linking everyone from Paul Jewell to Terry Venables with the job before they prised the hugely successful Italian away from his post at Red Bull Salzburg. Why not target another manager making waves at a particular club or country?

There are so many questions this role has thrown up that some would think anyone would be mad to want it. Yet it is an attractive position because Ireland is an established nation in UEFA and it continually produces good players -- it is just about finding the right man to lead them.


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