Former Ireland international, Ray Houghton, believes Mick McCarthy will be desperate to make his second term as Republic of Ireland manager a success given the manner of his exit the first time.
The 59-year-old is expected to be announced as the successor to Martin O’Neill at an FAI press conference this afternoon with his long-serving right-hand man, Terry O’Connor, expected to come on board as assistant manager alongside Ireland’s record-breaking goalscorer, Robbie Keane in a coaching role.
McCarthy formerly held the post from 1996 to 2002, taking over from Jack Charlton. He took the team to the 2002 World Cup in Japan and South Korea and had a win rate of 42.6% when he resigned.
Houghton, who played alongside McCarthy for the Republic of Ireland and was also managed by the Barnsley native, believes he will be desperate to prove his worth once more.
“He’s got unfinished business with the Irish set up with the way that he left the last time around. He’s got huge experience, he really wants the job and I think that’s hugely important. Somebody that comes in now who has got a real focus about him.”
“I’ve seen Mick recently at a few golf events and I can tell just by looking at him that he’s been desperate to get back in, he really has. He’s life’s management since he stopped playing, he’s hardly ever been out of work with all the clubs that he’s been where he’s done very well I think, with limited resources. I think, actually, he’s got better resources with the Irish team. I think we’ll start to see [improvements].”
Last night, news broke that Dundalk manager, Stephen Kenny, will take over from Noel King as manager of the Republic of Ireland U21’s and will succeed McCarthy in August 2020, following the completion of his current contract. While Houghton agrees that now wasn’t the right time for Kenny to take over the senior position, he insists that with a bit more experience, Kenny will fit the bill.
“Stephen is there on merit. He’s done a fabulous job. If you look at the trophies he’s won, the style of football, I can understand why people have come out and said what they have. If he keeps doing what he’s been doing, if he keeps winning and he keeps showing his talent, he’ll get his opportunity.”
The Liverpool legend draws many comparisons between this appointment and that of Giovanni Trapattoni who was brought in after Steve Staunton’s reign was ended by the FAI. The Italian led Ireland to the European Championships in 2012 and Houghton is hopeful there will be a similar outcome this time around.
“I see similar traits to what happened after Steve Staunton, the way we brought in Giovanni Trapattoni, the players had lost the will to win, we need to get that back. Hopefully Mick can come in and do what Giovanni done, qualify for his first tournament, and do what Martin done, qualify for his first tournament, and strangely enough, both of them were in the Euros, 2012 and 2016, and hopefully, we can make it three-in-a-row for 2020.”
“It’s not going to be easy, that’s for sure. We could be third seeds and we don’t know what the groups are going to be, we could be in a very tough group which would make it much more difficult to qualify but I think now that the decision has been made, that Martin’s moved on, whoever takes over, it’s their job to get the focus back, to get us back to winning ways and get us back to, hopefully, to where we belong which is going to the big tournaments.”
To celebrate Dublin’s hosting of the UEFA EURO 2020 Qualifying Draw on 2nd December 2018, Irish football legend, Ray Houghton, teamed up with Dublin City Council and the Football Association of Ireland to announce a National Football Exhibition giving people the chance to experience some of the excitement. It will be open to the public from Sunday, December 2nd at The Printworks, Dublin Castle until the 9th of December.