Monday, 28 November 2011

Do fans really want success or are they just happy to be entertained?

For me, the sport I love has always been about winning.

Whether it’s Ireland in a World Cup or a kick about in the park, winning was all that mattered.

Even if we didn’t play well - winning made the sport entertaining.

I always felt that while the match may not have been an entertaining spectacle, it felt great to play so bad and still win.

Qualification for the European Championships this month was a massive success.

All the hard work, combined with this perceived lack of entertainment, surmounted to winning qualification to a major tournament for the first time in ten years.

The criticism of Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign over the Irish team should have grinded to a halt after his victory over Estonia.

Instead, critics have now turned their attention to telling the public how bad Ireland are going to do at the Championships next summer.

Even if Ireland were to lose every game 5-0, the campaign would still go down as the furthest Ireland have gone in 10 years.

The furthest in the European Championships in 22 years.

Yet now some journalists are saying we will be found out by the likes of Spain, Germany and Holland when we get there.

Found out?

As in the best three teams in the world will prove that they are better than a team made up from the bottom half of the Premier League?

Surely success came in the qualification and anything beyond is even more of a bonus for this Irish team?

Yet a large portion of Irish supporters want Giovanni out.

Sick of the style of football, no matter how successful.

Compare this to the situation at Arsenal right now.

Arsene Wenger, one of the greatest managers in the world, has led his team to play some of the best football the Premier League has ever seen.

Yet he is nowhere near as successful as Giovanni.

Arsene will hope to some day be mentioned in the same breath as Giovanni when it comes to the amount of major honours he’s won.

But right now, he is not even close to adding to his tally.

He is currently overseeing his seventh season since he won a trophy.

But by playing such entertaining football during this barren spell, he was able to keep the terraces happy.

Gordon Strachan and Martin O’Neill is another interesting example at Celtic.

Gordon had the better record as manager.

Yet the supporters never really took to him despite twice taking the Glasgow team to the last 16 of the Champions League and winning the same number of league titles as Martin but in fewer seasons.

Gordon didn’t have nearly as much money as Martin and was forced to work with a weaker squad.

Yet most Celtic supporters will tell you they’d prefer to see Martin back in the hot seat.

Martin and his entertaining ways.

Finally, you have the situation at Chelsea.

There’s no chance Arsene would have been allowed 6 seasons in charge of Chelsea with such a lack of success.

Giovanni would no doubt have had success at the helm but the feeling is that Roman Abramovich demands entertainment and success.

And even when they had that in the shape of Jose Mourinho or Carlo Ancelotti, it only lasted as long as the success was there.

Hefty prices have been paid in trying to obtain both.

And he still can’t win the Champions League no matter how much money he spends.

The aim in football has always been to have an entertaining and successful side.

This is not always possible with the resources some sides have.

Especially in the international arena.

Roman has the right idea about this.

And the resources.

He is just living proof of how hard it is to have both.
At the end of the day though - Roman shares the same belief as myself.

Football is all about winning.

Yet some supporters of this beautiful game, just don’t find joy in being successful...

Monday, 14 November 2011

Do us all a favour Robbie - Retire from international football, effective immediately.

Thanks for everything Robbie.

You’ve done your best.

You really have.

But being honest - it just wasn’t quite good enough.

Now don’t you think it’s time you did us Irish a favour and retired from international football?

Preferably before the European Championships.

Preferably before Tuesday’s return leg against Estonia.

Let’s just say your performance in the first leg was the final straw.

Quite simply, you were muck.

I know you got 2 goals in an important match.


But 1 was a peno in fairness...

I know you set up Jon Walters with a brilliant cross.

As well as playing Stephen Hunt through to win the peno.

And you were also the player who drew the 2 fouls which saw 2 Estonians sent off.

But to be honest Robbie, I’m looking for more from an Irish striker these days than 2 goals, 1 and a half assists and getting 2 players sent off through your quickness of thought and speed of movement.

I want to see more to strikers in general than just goals and assists actually.

People will argue that you have 53 international goals.

More than Shearer, Owen, Lineker, Keegan or Charlton.

More than Rush, Hughes, Dalglish, Law or Best.

In fact, more than any British player.


Even though most of them were playing for far superior teams than you at the time.

But I always just felt your goals came against lesser nations.

And while Ireland never had a player good enough to score against the lesser nations until you came along, it’s the big games that count.

Like a Play-Off for a major tournament.

People will say you played in 4 Play-Offs and scored in 4 Play-Offs.

But I see the fact that you only scored 5 goals from those 6 games as being the reason we didn’t qualify from more of them.

I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself that you scored 3 goals (plus 1 more in the shoot-out) in the World Cup in 2002 and they were big games.

But one of those was against Saudi Arabia.

I don’t even know where that is Robbie.

I’ll give you the goals against Germany and Spain.

You deserve some credit.

But that still doesn’t change the fact that you are only really capable of scoring at home.

Away games against Holland, Italy and France excluded of course.

Or that cracker you got against Holland when we won 1-0.

Cause that was only a friendly.

But now it’s time for change.

Kevin Doyle is a much better player anyway.

He is 28 now and although Mick McCarthy is the only manager to spend proper money on him, it was €7.5m well spent.

Unlike yourself, who has had Gordon Strachan, Marcello Lippi, Dave O’Leary, Glenn Hoddle, Rafa Benitez and Harry Redknapp spend over €90m on you.

Kevin could get a move to someone like Internazionale, it’s just Wolves won’t sell him, that’s all.

Then there’s Shane Long as well.

23 goals in the Championship and West Bromwich Albion immediately threw €5.2m at Reading for him.

Yes Robbie, West Bromwich Albion.

And now we also have Leon Best.

He’s scored in 2 separate games in the Premier League this season.

He must start.

Along with Jon Walters.

He is also 28 and despite the fact that when you were 28 you had 33 internationals to your name, this guy has scored 3 goals in the Premier League this season.

3 goals Robbie.

He has to start ahead of you.

So, I appreciate your commitment and loyalty to the Irish side over the past 14 seasons but really, we’re not looking for someone who will turn up for every game and give 100% commitment no matter what.

You have given more to this country on the football pitch than anyone could ever ask of a player and have never once complained - but it’s time to move on now Robbie.

So all the Irish supporters who aren’t ‘fans’ of yours can experience what it’s going to be like when we’re well and truly fucked without you...

Friday, 11 November 2011

Go Giovanni Go. (In the supportive way of course)

If you want entertaining football and want success with your national team these days, then you’re going to have to hail from Spain, Germany or Uruguay I’m afraid.

Cause if you’re born in any of the other 205 nations, it’s a choice of wanting one or the other.

I for one, want success.

Success like the Holland side that won every qualifier for the World Cup in South Africa and every game all the way up to the final in 2010 - yet were absolutely slated in the press for their brand of football.

I want success over the entertainment that is the Armenian side who banged in a whopping 22 goals in Ireland’s group this campaign, making them the 5th highest scorers out of the 51 nations involved.

They won’t play a competitive game for almost a year.

I won’t lie - given a choice, I want to replicate Greece rather than go all Kevin Keegan on it and enjoy our summers off.

Kevin entertained the socks off my generation in the mid-nineties with his attack minded Newcastle side.

Countless 4-3 thrillers mixed with 3 goal comebacks almost every second week.

Entertaining - So entertaining.

But at the end of it all the only thing he won was the guarantee of being the extended highlights match every week on Match of the Day.

No Champions Leagues.

No league titles.

No FA cups.

Not even a mickey mouse cup.

Unlike Giovanni Trapattoni.

The third most successful manager in the history of the sport.

He is to winning what Kevin is to entertainment.

The perfect man to be in charge of the Irish national team right now.

In a period were we have no world class players for the first time in almost 50 years.

Giovanni has his team brilliantly organised, completely disciplined and making the absolute most of what they have at their disposal.

This team is full of passion, guts and a determination to punch above it’s weight.

There are more ways to play than the British style of frenetic pace and hard man defending.

There’s the successful way of playing too.

Like the Italian way which has yielded 4 World Cups for the national side.

That’s the Giovanni way.

Which has seen him manage some of the biggest teams in the world - AC Milan, Inter Milan twice, Juventus twice, Bayern Munich, Benfica, Fiorentina and Italy.

Having success at them all.

No manager in the history of Irish managers has ever won a major honour with the exception of the 1955 FA Cup.

Yet ‘fans’ are calling for his head?

Mick McCarthy got us to one major Championship in 3 attempts - He had Roy Keane in all of them.

Brian Kerr couldn’t even manage a play-off in 2 attempts - Even he had Roy Keane for a campaign.



Giovanni takes over - And from 3rd seed gets us to within extra time of a World Cup in his first attempt.

That group had Italy, Montenegro and Bulgaria in it.

And from 3rd seeds this time round, he has split Russia and World Cup last 16ists Slovakia.

Just 2 games away from only our second major tournament in 18 years.

Doing it the Italian way.

Yet an increasing amount of Irish fans are calling for his head.

I’m not sure exactly who they think will take over if Giovanni were to leave?

Martin O’Neill, Sven Goran Eriksson, Carlo Ancelotti - Good Luck.

Dave O’Leary, Paul Jewell, Chris Hughton - More likely.

In reality, if we lose Giovanni, we will get a manager who will be out of work, in the Championship or an ex-player who has never managed before.

And fans want this over the 3rd most successful manager of all time?

Cause they want to be entertained!

Do me a favour - get behind the greatest manager we have ever had and enjoy the success that will come with it.

I don’t want 7 goal thrillers like we had against Cyprus.

I want 4 draws to set-up a World Cup quarter final against Italy.

And no, we can’t have both.

We don’t have the players to give us both.

Not even England do.

Our players play for Stoke and Wigan.

Wolves and teams from the Championship.

And L.A. Galaxy!

But they are showing the sort of heart and character that should make every Irish supporter stand up brimming with pride.

These heros haven’t got all the ability in the world.

But they have got all the courage.

The sort of thing this country used to admire and respect.

We made heros of these players under Jack.

Now let’s do the same for Giovanni...

Monday, 7 November 2011

A look back on the glorious international career of Kevin Prince Boateng (2010-2011)

Alan Shearer.


Retires from International football.

Jamie Carragher.

29 the first time he retired.

Paul Scholes.

29 as well.

Each a great loss to their country.

Each bowing out just a little too early.

However, if any country can cope with the loss of one player, then a country with a pool the size of Englands to choose from can.

I’ve never really had a problem with players retiring from the larger nations, even if the above bowed out prematurely.

There is usually a couple of great young players just behind them bursting to take their place.

Think Michael Owen after Alan with Wayne Rooney not too far behind.

Or else quality established stars that are keeping them out of the first team anyway.

Think John Terry and Rio Ferdinand when Jamie went.

But when a player is retiring from a smaller nation such as Ireland, South Korea or Ghana, it is invariably going to leave a massive hole.

The depth of talent that these lesser nations produce, means they could easily go 10 years without producing a left back that’s better than Championship level.

We have seen such countries produce 4 great strikers and not a centre midfielder in sight.

3 left wingers and no right.

That is why it is paramount that when they do produce a player of quality, the player makes it his prerogative to play as long as he can for his country.

When Paul left England, they brought in Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard.

When Roy Keane left Ireland, it was Steven Reid with Kevin Kilbane.

Cut to this weekends news of Kevin Prince Boateng.

A player who had represented Germany 41 times as a youth team player.

Yet never quite good enough for the senior squad.

And in 2009, things weren’t going well for him at club level either.

He was heading for the Championship with Portsmouth.

However, he also qualified to play for Ghana.

A Ghana side that had reached the upcoming World Cup.

One switch of allegiance later and despite not playing a single World Cup qualifier, he was on the plane to South Africa in 2010.

Making his debut less than a week before the tournament started.

He used Ghana to get into the World Cup shop window and thus secured a move to AC Milan.

Fast forward one year - and only three games outside that month of June - Kevin announces his retirement from international football.

At the age of 24.

Alan had at least amassed 63 caps before he left England prematurely.

Paul had 66.

Ji-Sung Park had 100 caps when he retired from South Korea at the age of 29.

Yet here was Kevin Prince Boateng, not good enough for Germany, giving the chance to play in a World Cup by Ghana, repaying them by retiring after a whole 9 appearances.

A small nation loses one of their stars just short of their participation in the African Nations Cup.

A 6 week disruption he can do without in his Serie ‘A’ career with AC Milan no doubt.

But no hint of loyalty to the country that helped get him to Serie ‘A’ in the first place.

Had done so much for a young 23 year old struggling in a relegation battle to make sure he could represent their country.

And without the depth of pool that an England has to choose from.

Has it really gone so far that players can now ‘use’ countries as well as clubs.

Kevin used an entire nation as a stepping stone.

And didn’t even hang around long enough to say thanks.

Whatever else Alan ‘might’ have achieved on the international stage was unfortunately lost to his early retirement.

But at least he gave a massive amount to his country in the 9 years he did play.

Sadly though, that’s 1 year for every game Kevin had...