Well after a horrendous two weeks without proper football due to the international break, the Premier League was back again last weekend giving us all a warm fuzzy feeling. Arsenal fans are still probably cleaning themselves off after the excitement of actually seeing Mesut Ozil in action. Roberto Martinez showed that he mightn’t be that useless after all. Paolo di Canio tried to fool us all again into believing that he was a football manager. And the issue of diving reared its head again with David Moyes et al aghast that Ashley Young would have the audacity to throw his leg out at a palace defender when trying to go past him in the box. Young did the essential arms and legs out, spread eagled style fall like he’d just been poleaxed by Ron Chopper Harris. No penalty, a booking for Young for diving and the ire of his manager quickly followed. After the game, Moyes admitted that he “had a word with him (Young) privately” and warned him to be careful about his future conduct when it came to comically falling over other people’s legs. The Crystal Palace chairman Steve Parish, hilariously came out and claimed that diving was worse than “so called leg breaking tackles”. Presumably the BNP also got on board and blamed the foreigners for it again. That’s yet to be confirmed though. I just don’t understand all this rhetoric about diving. It’s just another part of cheating in the game.
I’m not necessarily defending the act of diving here. I just find it strange that a player can be lambasted by the media for winning a free kick or penalty for his team by feigning being fouled while other acts of intentional cheating in the game actually get praised. Imagine the scene, it’s the 85th minute in the Manchester derby, City are leading 1-0 and lose the ball at the edge of United’s box. United break quickly down field, Carrick playing it to Rooney who goes over the half way. It’s 2 vs 2 at the back. Toure comes from behind and drags Rooney down just as he nears the City penalty area. Danger averted. Toure gets a yellow card for his foul and the commentator tells us that it was “a good yellow to take for the team”. No one bats an eyelid and City go on to close out the match. It’s a situation that happens all the time. A player intentionally fouls another to gain an advantage for his team. It’s purposefully breaking the rules. In other words, it’s cheating. Why does no one get so enraged by this act of cheating but they do when Ashley Young does this?
Blocking players at set pieces has become all the rage recently. Last season Gary Neville went to great lengths to show how clever Stoke had been in using this tactic to score from a corner against West Ham. In fairness, it was a very well worked corner and a very clever set piece. Once again though, it was a case of intentionally breaking the rules to gain an advantage, also known as cheating. Did Tony Pulis come out after the game and rage at his players for scoring a goal under such nefarious circumstances? Did he take Jon Walters aside and tell him never to attempt it again? No, he didn’t. In fact it was quite the opposite. Pulis came out lauding himself after the match and telling everyone that it had taken his team of cheats 3 days to perfect their cheating methods in training! Surely the media was appalled at this brazen act of depravity? Of course they weren’t. As mentioned, G Nev went into an in depth analysis of what a wonderful set piece it was and was then lauded by everyone else in the media for doing such a good job of highlighting how the goal was scored.
We’re even schizophrenic when it comes to what’s considered dirty, foreign, greasy haired, bearded, slimy, Italian like diving and what’s considered gamesmanship, clever diving. For in some cases, i.e. when it suits us, we feel that a player is justified in throwing himself to the floor if we can prove to ourselves that there was a microcosm of contact after watching twelve slow-mo replays. In this instance the player, who most likely plays for the national team, wasn’t diving. He was being clever. Take the example of that horrible Ireland-Sweden game that I had the misfortune of paying €60 to attend a couple of weeks ago. Ireland went ahead when Robbie Keane managed to fumble that ball in after almost being taken down by the keeper. Of course, Ireland being Ireland, we went on to lose 2-1. What was the general consensus among fans after the match? Bob Keane was too honest. He should have thrown himself over the keeper when he had the chance. The keeper would have been sent off, Robert would have scored anyway from the resulting penalty and Sweden would have been down to 10 men for the remaining hour. Of course, Ireland would have then gone on to win the match. That wouldn’t have been diving though because he was touched. That would have been gamesmanship, which is completely different to being a diving, cheating prick.
So, if we’re going to go on a moralistic crusade to eradicate diving from the sport, which of course the Daily Mail already has, then can we at least be consistent and also get whipped up into a moral frenzy the next time Toure takes a yellow for the team.
P.S Check out the links below for a few of the best dives in recent season.
With Trapattoni and the FAI now officially parting ways, it's time to take a look at candidates for the job. Some are definite possibilities others are borderline fanciful. A man can dream though...
O’Neill is the clear favourite across the board being backed in to odds on with some bookies. The best available odds at the moment are 7/5.
Would He Want It?
This is far more of an open question than the odds would have you believe. He certainly ticks a couple of boxes – he’s Irish, he’s out of a job at the moment and at 61 he’s reaching the age where he might be thinking about semi-retirement. On the other hand, he’s given no indication that he’s ready to step back from the day to day management of club football and might fancy himself for another crack at a Premier League job.
Should Ireland Want Him?
Hmmm. I have to say I’m not overly sold on him. O’Neill certainly impressed in the early part of his managerial career winning the League Cup twice with Leicester City in 1997 and 2000, winning 3 Scottish titles when he moved onto Celtic and guiding them to a UEFA Cup final. Aston Villa were solid under him during his four seasons there without doing anything spectacular. The wheels came off at Sunderland though. A respectablish first season where they finished 13th was followed by a disastrous second season in charge. Having spent heavily, O’Neill’s Sunderland were only one point outside the relegation zone when he was sacked in March this year.
What worries me most about O’Neill is not his track record of results but his style of football. I’ve written recently that for Ireland to make any significant improvement we need to revamp our approach to the game. The days of pumping it up to a big man up front and completely bypassing the midfield have to be consigned to history. It might be hard at first but we need to resist the temptation to kick the ball as hard as we can up field. This is not Gaelic football. Unlike our national sport, football should be a game for cultured players; it is a game that rewards skill. We need to pass the ball. There are 4-5 players positioned in midfield for a reason. We need to learn to use them.
I fear that O’Neill is not the man to impose this style of play. His teams have never played with any great technical ability. They have always been more renowned for passion and work ethic than for their footballing approach to the game. O’Neill is a 4-4-2 man. He loves a big target man up front. He had Heskey at Leicester, Sutton and Hartson at Celtic and Carew at Villa. O’Neill would be a safe choice, he’d be pretty solid, it’s unlikely we’d be getting embarrassed by our financial imperialist German neighbours in our own back yard under him. However, Irish football needs to be dragged into the New Age. A new mentality and technical approach to the game needs to be introduced. This will need to happen and grass roots level and will take years to achieve but there also needs to be an example set from the top down. O’Neill is not the man to lead us in this direction.
Not a modern thinking manager and not what Irish football needs.
McDermott has shortened in the last 12 hours, he is now the clear second favourite to O’Neill at 12/5.
Would He Want It?
On the face of it he shouldn’t. He’s had a decent start to the Championship season with Leeds and sits one point outside the playoff places with five games gone. Would he abandon the possibility of a return to the Premier League with Leeds to take over a struggling Irish side? On the other hand, if rumours are to be believed, he’s unhappy with the lack of transfer funds that have been made available to him. Would this be enough to prompt him to jump ship? Maybe.
Should Ireland Want Him?
Despite being 52 McDermott is inexperienced at top level management. His first top level appointment came in January 2010 when he took over Reading following the departure of Brendan Rogers. In his first full season in charge, 2011/12, McDermott led Reading to automatic promotion to the Premier League. However, in his first season in the Premier League his Reading side struggled and he was sacked in March of this year with Reading going on to be relegated.
McDermott’s Reading side were noted for their attacking style of play so it’s unlikely that we’d see a return to the eye bleeding days of Trap. However, this bordered on the naïve on more than one occasion with his team seriously struggling defensively and being guilty of schoolboy errors all too frequently.
With only 3 years top level managerial experience behind him, McDermott would be a gamble. Our games certainly wouldn’t be boring though but the goals might be going in at the wrong end.
McCarthy has drifted out to 3rd favourite at 12/1.
Would He Want It?
Like O’Neill and McDermott you can’t say definitively. He’s only had a season behind him at Ipswich and would surely like a crack at promotion. However, maybe he’d like a chance to put right any perceived wrongs of Saipan.
Should Ireland Want Him?
He ticks a lot of boxes. In contrast to McDermott, he has a great deal of experience. He’s managed at both club and international level and has obviously been there and seen it with Ireland. His record with Ireland was very respectable, achieving qualification for the 2002 World Cup along with two play-offs for the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
McCarthy has shown during his previous spell with Ireland that he is not afraid to use the squad’s technically gifted players and he would certainly be open to playing a more attractive style.
Barring any of the Hail Mary’s below taking it, McCarthy should be the number one target.
40/1 looks stingy.
Would He Want It?
Unlikely. He is out of a job though having not had his contract renewed by Athletic Bilbao and if Denis O’Brien donates some cash again who knows? It’s a long shot but this is the Hail Mary section for a reason!
Should Ireland Want Him?
Of course. Biesla has 3 Argentine Primera Divisions under his belt in addition to being runner up in the Copa Libertadores, Copa del Rey and Europa League. At international level he achieved qualification for the 2010 World Cup with the Chilean national team, was runner up in the 2004 Copa America with Argentina and won gold at the 2004 Olympics with them.
During his time with Chile, Biesla was noted for bringing young players into the first team and was happy to employ an attacking style of football.
Ireland would be mad not to appoint him if he expressed an interest.
50/1. Wouldn’t put my house on it.
Would He Want It?
Unlikely but stranger things have happened…probably. He certainly doesn’t need the money but he has agreed to manage Turkey, Australia and South Korea in recent years; Ireland wouldn’t be a huge step down from any of those.
Should Ireland Want Him?
Hiddink won 6 Dutch titles, 4 Dutch Cups, and the UEFA Cup with PSV.
He’s won the FA Cup with Chelsea.
At international level he guided the Netherlands to the World Cup semi-finals in 1998 and achieved the same feat with South Korea in 2002.
He got Australia to the second round of the World Cup in 2006.
He brought Russia to the semis of Euro 2008.
In addition to the above, he’s Dutch. There wouldn’t be a ball played above waist height if he got the job.
The standout candidate but about as likely as Roy Keane apologising for Saipan.
So along with 45,000 other poor Irish souls I made my way to Lansdowne Road on Friday evening to watch Ireland play hoof ball for 93 minutes against one of the poorest Swedish teams there has been for a number of years. We were there more in hope than in expectation. Long gone are the days where we took wins against inferior opposition for granted. Gone are those heady days when we often took points in matches against the likes of the Netherlands, Portugal and Yugoslavia. These times, we’re nervous when the minnows come to town. We worry that we won’t be able to break the Faroes down. We worry that they might be too well organised. Will we be able to knick a goal and keep a clean sheet? As for Kazakhstan, it’s probably just as well we won’t be relying on a victory over them in the last game to qualify. Friday night put paid to that. It was horrible football at times. It was actually horrible football most of the time. Keeper to full back, full back back to keeper, keeper waits, keeper waits, keeper hoofs. Over and over and over again. Clearly Trapattoni and his coaching staff learned nothing from the Euros but soon what Trapattoni has learned or hasn’t learned will be of no consequence to Irish football.
In fairness, his record as Irish manager stands up well when measured against any of his predecessors In his first campaign in charge, the qualifiers for the 2010 World Cup, he took Ireland to a playoff and as we all know we were unlucky that we didn’t go on to win that playoff game against France. He then qualified for Euro 2012. Only Jack Charlton before him had ever managed to get Ireland to a European Championships and Mick McCarthy is the only other manager to qualify for a major tournament, the 2002 World Cup. Given that Trapattoni has had to utilise a far weaker pool of players than either Charlton or McCarthy, these achievements deserve some kudos. Is this all that we can hope for though? Surely there has to come a point when we try to move on to the next level. When we’re not happy qualifying for one major tournament every ten years. You can’t help but be disappointed that a manager of his undoubted skill will have spent five years in charge of the national team without making any positive contribution to its long term development.
Trapattoni certainly won’t be fondly remembered for his style of football. It is a one dimensional, boring, predictable and outdated approach to the game. Although Ireland’s goal on Friday came from a long ball up to Long, that was the only success that the tactic provided all night. It was telling that after that goal, Ireland didn’t threaten the Swedish goal at all. Surely one of the main reasons for this is the utter predictability of the tactic. Almost every single time that Forde got the ball he aimed it long. It went over the heads of the midfield and at Shane Long. He didn’t vary things by occasionally passing short to one of the full backs. He never went to the wingers or central midfielders. It was always long and it was always targeted at Long. In fairness to Long, he won more than his fair share of aerial duels but then what happened? Nothing. The Swedish got fooled once by the long ball tactic, it wasn’t going to be successful again. The defence simply positioned themselves around Long to ensure that they were first to his knock downs. Robbie Keane was rendered completely ineffective through no fault of his own. Starved of any proper service there was nothing he could do. Without any runners coming from the Irish midfield it was too easy for Sweden to focus on cutting off Long’s knock downs. Once they were on top of that Ireland had nowhere else to go.
If Ireland are to have any success in qualifying for future major tournaments they need to seriously re-evaluate the tactical side of their game at all levels. There is no point appointing a Martin O’Neill or Mick McCarthy type of manager if they are going to adhere to the same rigid, old fashioned style of football. Some people will argue that we don’t have the players to play a passing based style of play. I would disagree with this completely. While we certainly don’t have the quality of squad that Charlton or McCarthy had at their disposal, it is still a squad that is more capable than the Neanderthal football that they have been playing under Trapattoni. Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, James McClean, Aiden McGeady and Shane Long are all comfortable playing with the ball at their feet. These players are able to play a passing based style with their clubs so there is no reason why they shouldn’t be trusted to do the same at international level. Anyway, if there’s one thing that the last 18 months has shown it’s that we’re not getting any joy from this hoof ball tactic.
It’s not as easy as waving a magic wand though and making this happen. It will require a reorganisation of the game at all levels, something which the FAI seems to have absolutely no appetite at all in addressing. The schoolboy clubs, particularly the DDSL, exert far too much influence over the game at underage level with a win at all costs mentality as pervasive now as it has ever been. It is something that has been said for a number of years but something on which nothing has been done, there needs to be far more of a focus on the technical development of underage players than on a reliance on the physical dominance of larger schoolboy players to win matches at that level. A complete absence of any kind of success among our underage International teams is worrying.
Such structural reforms won’t happen overnight even if they are ever to be implemented but it is the only approach that is likely to result in any kind of sustained success for the international team. What is most important now is not who the next manager is but in how the FAI seek to address these endemic problems in the Irish game. Something tells me that I shouldn’t hold my breath on that one though. In all likelihood the FAI will roll out a Mick McCarthy, Martin O’Neill or God forbid a Terry Venables type of manager and we’ll proceed as is. Qualifiers will come and go, we’ll get lucky enough to actually qualify for a major tournament once every ten years, everyone will go on the piss and have the craic, we’ll get embarrassed on the national stage but sure it won’t matter because everyone had a good time and we’re just not that good anyway. Trapattoni will soon be gone but we’ll have learned nothing of value from his failings.