Ireland to do what every relegation-threatened team does…

Joe Williams

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Where next for Ireland
Last night while driving home from work Ireland’s world cup song from Italia 90 came on the radio. It is the best football song ever and brought me back to the year I was 21 and that glorious summer of Big Jack, Bonner gritting his teeth, Big Mick kicking Lineker cos he scored against us, O’Leary’s penalty. So, so many wonderful memories that will last forever. It also helped me to forget for a few minutes the turbulent times Irish football is going through this last while. Then this morning came the news that Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane have left their jobs with Ireland, which has been almost unanimously greeted with the same fervour their appointment was 5 years ago.

When they were first appointed it gave the soccer (sorry but football over here is and always will be GAA) loving public here a great lift. Here was O’Neill who was someone a lot of fans wanted as gaffer for a while and alongside him our own prodigal son Keano, what could go wrong. Up until a couple years ago it was going well from beating the WC champions Germany at home to qualifying out of our group at Euro 2016. But since then we have stagnated, players like Jeff Hendrick has not kicked on as I thought he would since Euro 2016 and the quality of players in our squad has diminished a lot.

It is the right decision, but it is one that seems to be taken due to the drop off in support at recent games (most notably the 31,000 for the Norn Iron game last week) if the media are to be believed. This decision was ultimately taken by the FAI’s John Delaney and he too has to step away from his post as he has done nothing for Irish football. I could talk at length of my hatred for this man and how IMO he is ruining Irish football domestically and internationally but I’m not going to waste my time on him as he is not worth it.

Our best way forward is to put in place a succession plan regardless of who gets the manager’s job. If I were to pick someone than I would go for Mick McCarthy with Lee Carsley taking the vacant U21 job (with a view to following Mick as senior manager) and Brian Kerr appointed in an overview football role. All 3 would also be responsible for improving the structure of our underage set-up and engaging more with the League of Ireland clubs across the country to bring all football forward.

Sadly, this will not happen as Delaney will probably go for the cheapest option, so he can keep his grossly inflated salary.
Macker (OLE, OLE, OLE) Ath Cliath


Ireland to do what every relegation-threatened team does
Firstly before I go on my rant I would like to show some admiration for what Martin O’Neill has achieved in the Irish job. Baring a dismal 12-18 months at the end of his tenure we had some fantastic results and we were one game away from making back to back tournaments (albeit that ended in disaster)

Now what does the FAI do? The people’s consensus seem to be Stephen Kenny who has guided Dundalk to 4 out of the last 5 league titles (including 2 doubles) and guided them to the Europa League Group stages.He has openly spoken about wanting Irish teams to play open / passing football, something the national team has lacked for many years. What he does lack is experience outside of Ireland (One season at Dunfermline). However so did Michael O’Neill who similarly won a number of titles in Ireland with Shamrock Rovers and guided them to the Europa League group stages (anyone remember them taking the lead against spurs at White Hart Lane in 2011?). He has revolutionised Northern Ireland.

But this will ultimately mean nothing. Ireland will higher someone with “experience” who can get the team back together and qualify for the Euros – something that has never been easier since the increase in numbers. Names that have been mentioned are Big Sam, ‘Arry, and Steve Bruce, names that you would associate with teams at the bottom of the PL. We have just been relegated to group C in the nations league to be fair!
Andy (I wrote this on a broken iPhone) London Irish.


Man City’s sins
I’m loathe to pick out something Seb SB wrote for criticism, as his output is some of the best on the site. But whilst his thoughts today on how allegations poison the water of success were well observed, I must take exception to the point that City’s cheating was incidental to their success.

The nature of money in football is an odd thing. Why should Man Utd’s ‘deserved’ wealth be more honourable than City’s artificial means? As fans, why should it matter to us if riches are built on noodle partners or dodgy billionaires? Seb is spot on when he calls FFP arbitrary. But there are crucial differences. When success breeds wealth, it at least feels earned. Man U won the lottery by coinciding their success with the onset of increased cash, but they still won a fair race. Artificially boosting one’s coffers with outside wealth skews the results. And City clearly cheated to do so. Paying 20% above market value was central to building their current side, and it was the illicit funds that enabled that.
Damien, THFC


How exactly did Seb Stafford-Bloor reach the conclusion that “[n]ot content with enjoying the technical profits of their fine vision, excellent signings and commitment to infrastructure, they are presumed to have stretched themselves beyond the laws to obtain privileges which they didn’t actually need”?

That is very clearly the wrong way around. The investment in signings and infrastructure were, and continue to be, paid for by money obtained (so the allegations go) by subverting the rules of the game – hell, the fine visionaries making the plan aren’t doing it out of the goodness of their hearts – if you want the best, you have to pay for it, so the saying goes. City (it is alleged) couldn’t afford the best within the financial rules of the game.

So it isn’t comparable to the Patriots, who I understand (not being an American Football fan) were at the very top of the game using nefarious means to get a little more edge – the alleged cheating of the rules is much more fundamental than that as it is the key reason for City’s success.

A couple of other points on Seb’s article:

– Seb criticises people raising “yeah, buts” and dives into one in the very next sentence. I am not aware of anyone suggesting that City are the only team that are a “subversive element”. But if other teams do indulge in cheating (and I am quite sure they do) they should be investigated when they are suspected and called out when something substantive is found, which is what is happening with City. There is now substantial evidence that City have cheated and the possibility that others have also is just not relevant to discussion of City – I do not know why Seb even dwells on it, other than to engage in the very “whataboutery” that he’s simultaneously criticising.

– Seb says that City have a right to a presumption of innocence. The thing is, Seb is unhelpfully appropriating the language of the court room there, as if to suggest that none of us can form a view on whether City did it but that just isn’t true.

If City were accused of criminal wrongdoing (which the aren’t) that sort of language is all well and good – presumption of innocence, have to prove that they’re guilty beyond all reasonable doubt, etc. City may, or may not, be subject to investigation by UEFA and/or the Premier League on the back of all this and they will have their own standards that need to be met to bring any action. But, for members of the public, or journalists like Seb, we are perfectly entitled as of right now to look at the thorough investigative journalism and evidence that Der Spiegel have collated and form our own opinion on whether we agree or not.

Before this investigation was published, people may have had their unfounded suspicions about City’s conduct. Now people (and commentators like Seb) are at liberty to reach their own opinion about whether City did it based on the evidence presented. Notwithstanding City’s legitimate right to complain about how the evidence was obtained (and in a court room it could possibly make it inadmissible?), for the rest of us, unless City are saying that this body of evidence is fake (which they have not, yet), now we are aware of it we cannot just pretend that it doesn’t exist when discussing the point. We are past the “presumption of innocence” stage.
Andy (MUFC)


Idea for punishing teams
A bit of a left-fielder here, but since England played Croatia in the “behind closed doors” game recently, I’ve been wondering about the effectiveness of this punishment. Similar to other punishments in football, like retroactive bans for diving, the punishment doesn’t seem to unduly affect the wrong-doer whilst at the same not really helping the sufferer of the wrong doing – in the case of diving, the player has still won an advantage/penalty/contributed to a goal during the game and the team offended against still has to live with the result. Retroactive bans don’t seem to change anything, and don’t seem to be a huge deterrent anyway.

In the area of crowd trouble or racist chanting, playing a game behind closed doors seems to punish both the offending team/country and the next team/country they play, who will not be able to be supported by their own innocent (in this respect) fans.

A better idea to me would be for the offending team to lose their right to play at home and instead have to play the game in question away. This gives the team they play against a distinct advantage, and punishes the offending team only, not both teams. Just keeping fans away from the games doesn’t seem to stop these problems, but showing fans that it can actually affect the chances of their team succeeding, by giving their opponents an advantage, would be more effective in my eyes. What does the F365 family think ?
Phil – MUFC


We don’t need another Danny Welbeck
I’m sorry, but how is wanting to see a player to take full advantage of a good position or piece of play suddenly an example of modern insanity? No one is expecting him to notch up record tallies of assists and goals every game, and no one is doubting the effort he puts in or the great potential he has. All people are asking is that he gets into the habit of making better decisions and executing his intentions better when he does get in those good positions. I don’t think that anyone’s definition of good wing-play has ever been creating no chances and taking no shots – if you look threatening but don’t contribute to any goals then over the course of a season it’s not going to count for much. It’s encouraging that he can get into those positions and look threatening, but at some point we’re going to need to see an improvement in that side of his game or it’s all for nought.

As a United fan, it’s immensely frustrating watching him take on and beat a couple of players down the wing, only to see him scuff/not take the shot, misplace the pass, or slow the attack down and allow defenders to get back. He is blessed with great pace and has a good eye for goal, but far too often his hard work comes to absolutely nothing. He’s certainly not the only culprit, and he can’t really be blamed if the strikers miss the chances when he does create them, but far too often his driving runs end fruitlessly. What’s the point of having a player getting in to a good position if nothing comes of it?

There are extenuating circumstances, in that his development has been a bit all over the place; is he a striker or a winger/wide-forward? If it’s the former then he needs to work on his positioning, hold-up play and his timing of runs – and play there more frequently. If he’s going to be a winger then he needs to learn to look up when he’s beaten his man, and improve the frequency and accuracy of his crossing. He has played enough minutes for both United and England now that his age shouldn’t really be used as an excuse any more; he’s a fully fledged first team player now, and it’s not unreasonable to judge him as such. The frustration comes because you can see that he’s capable of better, and it’s OK to want to see him do better.

I still think a loan move would be better for his development than staying at United all season. Once they’ve decided what his long-term position is going to be – whether it’s winger or striker – then they should send to him to a club where he’s going to get consistent starts in that role. While he’s at United he is having to accept that he’ll not get a consistent run of games in one single position, and I don’t want to see that hold back his progression. The last thing United or England need is another jack of all trades, we don’t need another Danny Welbeck.
Ted, Manchester


Nations league Winners and Losers

The Nations League – Before the tournament we were all like what the hell is this thing how is going to work, Now for a lot of are like wow what the hell was that it works when can we do it again.

England – Exceeded expectations and capped off a wonderful year unfortunately for non In-ger-lund fans we will have to hear it’s coming home till June.

Netherlands – According to reports they were in a crisis ,after not qualifying for two tournaments, the resurgence seems to be going well and unlike the last two tournaments they are now guaranteed a playoff spot after some eye catching results.

Switzerland – You can’t name any of their players beyond Shaqiri (admit it your probably going to google to check if Djorou still gets a game) . At a point they needed 4 goals to qualify they scored 5, the most surprising of a strange bunch of semi finalists.
(Senderos is probably still number 50 on their ladders)
Portugal without Ronaldo -Ronaldo has taken an extended break from the national team ,the rest of his cohorts (Nani and Quaresma) , haven’t been called up for a while and yet here they are hosting and amongst the favourites

Scotland- There is a generation of Scottish fans who haven’t seen their team in a major tournament, they haven’t been been to a playoff since 2004 >there a lot closer now
They need a special mention as their first match as a member of fifa was only 2 Years ago, to already have a playoff spot is laudable.

The other Group winners in Group C and D

Serbia got to the world cup but for Norway,Finland Georgia.Belarus and Macedonia this represents a Golden opportunity to acheive something they have not done in a while/ever and qualify for a major tournament

Sweden without Zlatan

They are not the most entertaining people to watch but they have developed an interesting habit of scaling through when the odds seem against them.


Not for results more for performances they finally seem to have a pattern the team seem to be gelling they should make it to 2020 and could redeem themselves afterwards.


Were to start the annus mirablis is complete, first early elimination from a world cup since Moses was getting the ten commandments , no consectutive wins all year and now not evening top seeds for the next Euros the descent has been drastic and I think it;’s time to go back to the drawing board like they did at the turn of the century.
It was fun while it lasted but you get the feeling their time at the top is coming to an end they are more likely to drop down the divisions now than return.

Croatia and Modric – At some point in the last 10 mins of the England Croatia match every team had opportunity to qualify such are the fine margins. It is a black spot on Modric’s year ,which so far has been stellar and it’s also makes the future difficult for the Croatian team in general as most of the shining lights who took them to this years final will either have retired or be too old by the next edition of this tournament.

Belgium -The problem with having a golden generation is expectations are raised ,this bunch will probably be phased out after Qatar 2022 and I’ll be surprised if they are still intact by then.
There are very few chances left to claim something and losing out in the manner they did just makes it worse.
The Irish (both of them) – Qualification for the last Euros was a cause for celebration to not be going and to also be in a situation where they are not going to be amongst the top 2 seeds and also knowing they will be playing against third tier teams feels like regression.

San Marino _the only team aside from Iceland to not win or draw ,the whole reason for this tournament is to pick on teams your own size if you can’t even be successful once in those circumstances then you are pointless in more ways than one.
Timi, Super Eagles Fan


Scotland – 10 conclusions
I thought you’d get at least one mail regarding the Scotland game, but since you didn’t here’s my conclusions:

1. The Nations League is great! If a tournament can make me leave my house on a wet Tuesday night (not in Stoke though) to watch the game in the pub, then it’s doing something right. With not only promotion and the carrot of playing more interesting games next year, but also a potential path to the Euros at stake, this was Scotland’s biggest game in quite some time.

2. The first 10 minutes were an all too familiar story. Played poorly, conceded a weak goal (great shot though) and we all were thinking “Here we go again…” From somewhere though, Scotland dug in, found some inspiration and got the desired result.

3. What is in James Forrest’s porridge!? Has their ever been such a sudden glut of goals from an international player? 24 games without scoring, then 5 in his last 2 games. Surely some sort of record? Without a decent striker, having that goal scoring ability from midfield is crucial.

4. Speaking of creativity, what a pleasure it is to have a player like Ryan Fraser playing for Scotland. He’s was excellent against Albania and last night as well. The most pleasing thing is that there’s surely more to come from him. But having a Premier League class creative player is something Scotland haven’t had for a long time.

5. Stuart Armstrong also put in a great performance. At times, Scotland were a pleasure to watch and it looks like there might finally be some brighter times ahead, from a footballing perspective at least.

6. The defense was shaky. Both goals should have been closed down and we easily could have conceded again. Yes, we had players missing but we need to do a lot better against better teams.

7. What. A. Save. If you haven’t seen McGregor’s save at the death, watch the highlights. We all thought that was 3-3 and the Nations League dream had died. Thankfully this time, glorious failure was not Scotland’s mantra.

8. Onwards we go. Nations League B awaits and some potentially exciting games. Germany or Croatia would be fun but difficult, but there are definitely beatable teams in there. Lucky draw aside, another promotion is probably unlikely, but hopefully we can avoid relegation in the next round of games. They will certainly be more appetizing than Israel and Albania, which always felt like “Let’s just get through this.”

9. More importantly, the Euros. It will have been 22 years, and all of my adult life, since Scotland qualified for a major tournament. All we have to do now is beat Finland at home, then beat Serbia or Norway. If either of them qualify from the main Euro draw, we may even end up playing lower ranked teams than that.

10. On that note, when the matches are played for Euro 2020, we know that group D matches will be played at Wembley and Hampden. We also know that nations that are hosting matches, if they qualify, will automatically be put in the group that involved their home stadium. Which means that if England and Scotland both qualify they will automatically be put in the same group. Revenge for Euro 96? You never know…
Mike, LFC, London