Bad, bad news for players
7 November ~ When the FA of Ireland gave just 16 days’ notice of a friendly with Latvia last Thursday, it didn’t get too many pulses racing. True, there is a sizeable Latvian population in Ireland, but the possibility of seeing a side managed by former Southampton striker Marian Pahars was not a recipe for filling the Aviva Stadium on a cold and wet Friday night. A week on and the mood of the Irish support, which had been down following a lacklustre World Cup qualifying campaign, is buoyant again.
The installation of Martin O’Neill as manager with Roy Keane assisting is sure to attract a greater number of supporters for Latvia than might normally be the case. Of course, in the greatest of Irish traditions, many people will pay attention to the fortunes of new partnership in the expectation that the honeymoon period will be a brief one. Perhaps that is only natural given Keane’s propensity to seek out conflict in the past.
FAI chief John Delaney is one of those who has come into the former captain’s sights, most notably after the risible attempts to seek a replay or a 33rd spot at the 2010 World Cup after the infamous Thierry Henry handball in Paris in the 2009 play-off. Talking on Tuesday, Delaney attempted to look ahead, saying that when he had spoken to Keane the past had taken up about 30 seconds of the conversation. “If Martin O’Neill was telling me what commercial manager to hire I’d let him know I was in charge,” Delaney said, “but as manager of the team he decides who is in the backroom.”
The intrigue for many is seeing how Keane can operate as a subordinate, given his rough relationship with authority. Ray Houghton was charged, along with the wonderfully named Ruud Dokter, with headhunting a new manager by the FAI and he feels satisfied that there won’t be any problems there. Perhaps Keane’s desire to get back into football is so keen that he will toe the line (incidentally, on ITV on Tuesday he suggested that he deserved another chance – hardly a sentiment that Keane the player would agree with) and both men’s tutelage under Brian Clough may lead to a good understanding.
That Keane will not attend Saturday’s press conference to unveil O’Neill is probably a good thing – the Irish media may disagree – but in any case it’s not as if the Ulsterman is one who would willingly allow his power to be eroded. He said that he will be the bad cop and Keane the “bad, bad cop”, so it looks as if coach Steve Walford, a long-time O’Neill disciple, will have the “good” flank all to himself. Denis Hurley