It wasn’t even an international week but Roy Keane was in the headlines again after his departure from Aston Villa. Surely no other assistant manager in the international game generates the same column inches as Keano. Let’s take a look back at some of his memorable and not-so-memorable recent predecessors as Ireland’s assistant manager.
Manager: Giovanni Trapattoni
Assistants: Marco Tardelli and Liam Brady
Despite the very high profile of Trapattoni’s lieutenants, it was the boss himself who normally occupied the back pages thanks to his gift for sound-bites and fans’ frustration with his stubborn defensive tactics.
Brady, who played under Trap with Juventus from 1980-1982, left his position to concentrate on his work with the Arsenal Youth Academy. He remained a staunch defender of Trap’s tactics when appearing as a pundit on RTE. One suspects Trap might have missed his calming influence in the dressing room. A recurring theme of Trap’s reign after Brady’s departure was angry players withdrawing from squads – Stephen Kelly, Kevin Foley, and Darron Gibson all had very public falling outs with management.
Tardelli seemed to reinforce rather than counterbalance Trap’s combative man-management and defensive tactics, and left Ireland by mutual consent along with Trappatoni after failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.
Manager: Steve Staunton
Assistant: Sir Bobby Robson
The FAI attempted to negate the risk involved with appointing a first time manager by recruiting Sir Bobby, a much loved veteran, as Staunton’s ‘International football consultant’. Sir Bobby’s increasingly fragile health limited his involvement (during Ireland’s EURO 2008 qualifying campaign Robson was diagnosed with cancer for the fifth time).
The task was too much for Staunton as Ireland suffered one of the poorest qualifying campaigns in recent history.
Manager: Brian Kerr
Assistant: Chris Hughton
Hughton was the first ever mixed-race footballer to represent Ireland (born in England to an Irish mother and Ghanaian father), and enjoyed a long coaching career with Tottenham. Unlike Keano, Hughton successfully balanced his club job with Tottenham with his Ireland job under Brian Kerr.
He kept a relatively low profile under Kerr but Irish fans certainly noticed Hughton’s success once he became a manager in his own right.
Hughton had to publicly rule himself out of the running as a potential replacement for Giovanni Trapattoni as head manager. While managing Newcastle, Hughton reportedly tried to convince the board to hire Brian Kerr as his assistant.
Manager: Mick McCarthy
Assistant: Ian Evans
Ian ‘Taff’ Evans was a retired Wales international who kept a relatively low profile during his time as Mick McCarthy’s no. 2. However, he has since been propelled into the public consciousness after the current no. 2’s first autobiography was published in the wake of Saipan.
Taff was cast as McCarthy’s accomplice in incompetence by Keane. In interviews, Taff usually seemed more bothered by all the attention rather than Keane’s unflattering portrait of him.
It was Taff who bought the Hawaiian shirts worn by coaching staff during the infamous Saipan media barbecue.
Darren Kelly, Pundit Arena.