The FAI pulled off a major coup by appointing Englishman Colin Bell to the Republic of Ireland Women’s team. A Champions League-winning coach, Bell represents a signal of intent.
However, some appointments by the organisation in the past have been questionable. Signing up Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane has been a masterstroke so far, but many Irish fans have divided opinions on the behind the scenes work, in particular at underage and administrative level.
Many Irishmen have made a name for themselves in coaching and development positions in the past yet very few end up being employed by the FAI. David O’Leary brought Leeds to a Champions League semi-final but has never had a sniff of an FAI role, not to mention other Irish coaches like Pat Walker (Sweden) and Kevin Grogan (USA), who have learned about different cultures in world football, which could be valuable to Ireland.
Ireland’s underage set-up has suffered in recent years after a prolonged period of success. Despite two major tournaments in the past five years, an underlining fear still remains about the development of future Irish talent, especially given the growing competition for first team action in England.
England is no longer a safe option for young Irish players with many returning home to the League of Ireland or moving to the lower leagues in England. However, the way that the FAI is run along with the coaching of youth teams could enshrine a template to bring through some of the quality produced in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.
With a lot of Irish coaching talent emerging in recent years, the FAI may want to pull off some further ambitious appointments for the good of the game in Ireland.
Here are a few individuals who would be the perfect fit for the FAI and make a positive impact given their experiences.
The Liverpool legend played for Ireland between 1970 and 1981 and was a technically gifted winger with great tactical knowhow. This translated into his career after football, when he joined the coaching staff of Liverpool’s youth academy in 1989.
Heighway was responsible for the development of Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Robbie Fowler, Steve McManaman and Jamie Carragher just to name a few, which shows the calibre of his expertise.
Having announced his retirement in 2007, it is baffling that a role within Ireland’s youth set-up did not transpire given his track record. He has since returned to Liverpool in a mentoring capacity.
Potential Roles: scout, underage coach.
Quinn has experienced most aspects of football. He has played and managed in the game as well as being a former chairman. Quinn’s versatile skill set would be valuable to the FAI in an administrative role.Having become a strong negotiator at Sunderland, Quinn could be key in the recruitment of staff or even foreign-born eligible players.
However, he has in the past stated that he would not be interested in working for the organisation due to the ‘politics’ involved’.
Potential Roles: underage coach, administration, recruitment
Having retired from football in 2011, Carsley has successfully tried his hand at coaching and now works for the FA. Part of Ireland’s 2002 World Cup squad, an element of his role is stemming the flow of English players declaring for other nations.
Ironically Carsley himself was a ‘granny rule’ player. He won the Championship Manager of the Month award while caretaker at Brentford and with his player development work at the Bees, and now with England, he would represent a very promising coach.
Potential Roles: underage coach, player development, regional development.
Wolverhampton-born O’Driscoll won three caps for Ireland in the 1980s. In his early managerial career with Bournemouth and Doncaster Rovers his reputation grew as a coach that employed an attractive, fluid and passing style of football.
With Ireland much criticised for their brand of football and young players seemingly lacking imagination on the ball, O’Driscoll’s tactical awareness would be another asset for the FAI. Another man that was employed by the English FA, O’Driscoll is out of work after leaving Walsall.
Potential Roles: underage coach, coaching development, player development.
It is baffling that Kerr has not been employed in some kind of advisory role given the success he has brought to the country. After European Championship victories at under-18 and under-16 level, not to mention a third place finish at the 1997 World Youth Cup, Kerr oversaw somewhat of a golden generation in Irish football.
Having served as senior manager for two years, Kerr was sacked despite only suffering four losses in 33 games. Kerr showed his ability to work with limitations by kick-starting the Faroe Islands and has a wealth of experience in the League of Ireland.
One of the most tactically aware and knowledgeable coaches to come out of the country.
Potential Roles: player development, coaching development, League of Ireland development, underage coaching.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena