Tag Archives: michael o’neill

All we want is attacking football!

5 Jul

 

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So Shamrock Rovers are in turmoil again with another managerial casualty in Pat Fenlon, a man widely expected to restore the club to some sort of glory again following the short and disastrous reigns of Stephen Kenny and Trevor Croly and since Michael O’Neill’s contract wasn’t renewed in 2011, following two successive titles and the historic qualification to that year’s Europa League group stages.

Being Ireland’s most successful club will always generate discussion among pundits and supporters when things have turned sour.  Things have been pretty sour up at Tallaght Stadium for almost five years now and the supporters are getting pretty sick of it.

They’re not as deluded or unrealistic however as Soccer Republic’s Alan Cawley might think.  Fans may be many things, but the vast majority of them aren’t stupid.  They don’t expect silverware every year, that is impossible and completely deluded.  Rovers (or any other club) aren’t going to win matches every week, or two out of every three weeks for that matter.  We’re long enough going to matches and watching matches of every competition to know that.

What Rovers fans (and I would expect every fan of every club) do expect and demand however is to see a team that is set up to have a go at the opposition (particularly in domestic competition as European football is a different ball game altogether).  They expect to see a team attacking the opposition, or at least be seen to attempt to do so.  They expect eleven players to give 100% effort and application to the team and the supporters.

Rovers fans have become increasingly exasperated by and sick of the cautious, sterile, unadventurous garbage that has become the norm since the departure of Michael O’Neill, who has proved himself to be an outstanding manager by bringing Northern Ireland beyond the group stage of Euro 2016.  They have become disillusioned and angry at some of the absolute chancers and prima donnas who have donned the famous Green and White Hoops since the heady days of Europa League football only five years ago.

Gone are the team leaders of that era such as Dan Murray, Craig Sives, Alan Mannus, Stephen Rice, Chris Turner, Ronan Finn, Dessie Baker and the incredible Gary Twigg.  In their place we’ve seen imposters such as Kerrea Gilbert, Killian Brennan (in both his spells at the club), Mark Quigley, Jason McGuinness, Conor Powell, Oscar Jansson, Conor Kenna and other sub-standard players and questionable characters somehow masquerading as Shamrock Rovers players.

This is why in my opinion the supporters who were attracted by the initial novelty of Rovers arriving in Tallaght in 2009 and being immediately successful are now staying away.  Tallaght Stadium is now seemingly down to the hard core fans again and this is seriously worrying for the board as the club continues to do outstanding work at grassroots level.  Being a great grassroots club however should only be a stepping stone to developing young players and young men worthy of reaching the first team and staying in it.  Rovers fans want a Manager who will bring back the attacking ethos to Ireland’s most successful club.  They want players and characters worthy of the shirt.   Silverware will follow eventually if that model is rebuilt and sustained, but the immediate goal of the next Manager should be attacking football that results in the team being competitive for the League title, something that hasn’t been the case since the last title win in 2011 under O’Neill.

Last Thursday’s limp, clueless and dreadful 0-2 defeat to a very average (at best) Finnish side Rovaniemi in the Europa League had to be seen to be believed.  It was diagonal ball obsession from the back making every delivery up to young Gary Shaw a 50/50 battle.  That Shaw managed to win more than his fair share of these tussles was admirable but with usually nobody on hand to get on the end of Shaw’s flicks on, the Finnish team were under no pressure defensively.  Fenlon’s playing of the exciting and talented Brandon Miele on the left of a “front” three has been an utter waste of this lad’s talent.  What passing moves Rovers did have were sideways and more usually backwards, followed by the diagonal welly towards Shaw.  Is this the best a “modern” coach/Manager such as Fenlon can muster?  It was the same mind-numbing, sterile football under Trevor Croly who was there immediately before Fenlon. One up front at home in league and cup games is ridiculous and ill-befitting a club like Shamrock Rovers.  The fans can’t and won’t stand for it.  That it’s claimed by some that the formation is 4-3-3 is an insult to the intelligence of the supporters.  It’s 4-5-1, it’s safety first and it’s not working and hasn’t worked and won’t work.

A quick look at the goals for column under Trevor Croly and Pat Fenlon makes for grim reading.  138 goals scored in 84 games under Croly and an even more paltry 119 goals scored in 83 games under Fenlon.  That is just pathetic and unacceptable.  Even Gary Twigg would’ve struggled to score goals playing under these guys.

Stephen Kenny’s Dundalk have won two successive titles playing attacking, progressive, strong, winning football in a team packed with strong characters and leaders and hungry young players.  I expect this to become three by the end of October.  This makes Kenny’s failure at Rovers both bizarre and galling for Hoops fans.

The Rovers board really need to get the next appointment right.  They need to start getting fans back through the Tallaght gates quickly.  That can happen with a Manager who has the balls and strength of character to set up Rovers in an attacking way, by passing the ball progressively and with players moving into positions to receive a pass.   By playing two up front as often as possible.  By signing players who want to play for the club with honesty, bravery and passion.   These players should also come with a semblance of a thick skin to take criticism from fans on the chin and not go onto social media whingeing and telling fibs (Gavin and Killian Brennan for a start) when their dreadful performances merit supporters’ wrath.

I don’t know who that Manager may be, but he must exist.  The players required to play for Shamrock Rovers and their fans certainly exist.   The time has come to finally ditch the rubbish football that continues to drive Rovers fans up the bloody wall in frustration and that has driven recent fans back to their armchairs.

Come on Rovers’ board, get it right this time.

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My Footballing A-Z for 2015

31 Dec

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A is for Apeshit. We all adopted this mode in October when Shane Long ran onto Darren Randolph’s long clearance, sprinted clear of the German defence and smashed his shot past Manuel Neuer at the South Terrace end of Lansdowne Road to give Ireland a pivotal 1-0 win over the World Champions Germany in our quest to qualify for Euro-2016. Everybody went apeshit, what a moment.

 

B is for Bullshit. Following on from a brown stuff reference, Roman Abramovich had enough of it from his Chelsea manager and Jose Mourinho was sacked in his second stint with the club in December. I won’t miss his bullshit for one moment, good riddance Mourinho.

 

C is for Champions of Ireland and that title again went to Dundalk, who added the FAI Cup to the cabinet in November. It’s very difficult to retain the League Of Ireland, but Stephen Kenny’s team did so with relative ease having captured the 2014 title in the final match with Cork City. Losing Richie Towell however will be a test of Dundalk’s mettle, but they’ll still be the team to knock off their perch in 2016.

 

D is for Damien Duff. Football said goodbye as a player to Damien Duff after a wonderful club career in the UK and a glittering 100 cap Irish career. It was a pity his joining Shamrock Rovers didn’t amount to more than a few appearances but his body was telling him it was time to admit defeat injury-wise. A true Irish footballing legend. Ní bheidh a leithéid arís.

 

E is for Euros. We have Euro 2016 to look forward to in June. We’re there, we’re going, that’s all.

 

F is for Fog. Our first leg Euro 2016 play-off match in Bosnia will forever be remembered as the half we didn’t see, either if you were in Bosnia or watching at home as fog enveloped much of the pitch at the start of the second half. Robbie Brady’s wonderful solo goal could only be appreciated at the third camera angle and what a shame, given it was a superb effort from a now first choice class player in Brady.

 

G is for Germany. See A above.

 

H is for Hill. Football said Rest in Peace to Jimmy Hill. For football fans of my age and slightly younger, Hill was the face (and chin) of televised football when we were growing up, from his first punditry on UTV’s The Big Match, to his switch to the BBC and Match of the Day’s frontman. Modern players revelling in riches can also be grateful to Hill for his work in the abolition of the maximum wage.

 

I is for Ireland. A special year for football both sides of the border as both nations made it to the European Championships next Summer, the first time in history both nations will take part in the same tournament.

 

J is for Jocks. The Scottish sort, not the item of clothing. The Jocks will mind the islands next Summer while ourselves, Northern Ireland, Wales and England will invade France. Feed the dogs please Jocks.

 

K is for Keane. Robbie will be on the plane next Summer, but not necessarily get any action but he will be an integral part of the squad that goes to France. His class in supporting those who got the nod from O’Neill ahead of him in the closing games of the qualifiers was clear and barring injury, he must go to France and will. Roy’s influence and importance (and apparent happiness) has grown also as the campaign continued and Martin O’Neill stressed the input of Roy in helping our qualification to France. There’s only two Keanos.

 

L is for Lansdowne. It’ll always be Lansdowne to me and the Roar came back in the German win and certainly in the second leg play off against Bosnia in November when qualification was secured. The new stadium finally rocked into action in both those matches, long may this continue.

M is for Martin. Our classy, intelligent and passionate international team Manager. No question he had many hairy moments in qualification but seems to have learned a lot about his players and his team set up as the group went into the business end of things. Personally, I was delighted for Martin O’Neill in attaining qualification.

 

N is for Nutsy. Shamrock Rovers’ boss Pat Fenlon’s nickname. 2015 was a largely disappointing year again for Shamrock Rovers in Nutsy’s first full year in charge and despite a third place finish and European football acquired, Rovers were out of contention for the title early enough in the year. The loss of Keith Fahey to a retirement resulting injury didn’t help his strategy, but he’ll know his team must challenge better in 2016 to keep the fans onside and keep his own job.

 

O is for O’Neill, Michael that is. I have so much time for Michael O’Neill after his managership of Shamrock Rovers brought successive League titles 2010 and 2011 and bringing Rovers to Europa League group stages in 2011, so it shouldn’t have surprised us too much that he brought his native Northern Ireland to Euro-2016 qualification. That he should bring the team to top spot in the qualification group however, is an outstanding achievement. They have a very tough group with Germany, Poland and Ukraine but they’ll give them all a game, you can be sure about that.

 

P is for Paris. A very much aniticipated return to Paris beckons in June, scene of the heartbreaking Hand of God goal scored against us in November 2009 (hard to believe that’s six years ago). Sweden will be our opponents in the Stade De France, hopefully our emotions coming out of there will be different next time around.

 

Q is for Qualified. See E above.

 

R is for Redmond. Ireland’s kit man Dick Redmond became an internet sensation when Ireland qualified for France when he charged into the victorious Irish dressing room dressed as Superman and hollering “I’M SIXTY AND I’M GOING TO FRANCE”………one of the funniest moments of the footballing year.

 

S is for Shane. Long’s goal against Germany as in A above was the standout moment in my footballing year but things can get even better for Shane Long in 2016. He has pace, aerial power and intelligence, if he can improve his goals to chances ratio, he’ll be a hot property by the time we’ve all returned from France.

 

T is for Trip. As soon as the draw was made for Euro-2016, thousands of fans were plotting their various routes to France.   Planes, trains, automobiles, campervans, bicycles, scooters, hitching, will all be used and anywhere to get the head down for the night (or morning as will more likely be the case) will be found and used. Irish fans are resourceful and will do anything to support the boys in France.

 

U is for Understanding. Wives/partners that is. It’s fair to say a majority of them will never understand our utter passion and love for teams, be they club or country, but they are fairly understanding when we come to them saying “I’m going to France/Kazakhstan/Timbuktu to a match. Once we get the gaff painted or decorated before the next away trip.

 

V is for Van Gaal. Looking as forlorn this year as he did in 2001 when Jason McAteer’s goal beat his Dutch team and knocked them out of qualification for the 2002 World Cup. His philosophy of football hasn’t worked thus far at Man United and he will likely be joining Mourinho shortly as an out of work Manager. Another I won’t miss if/when it does happen.

 

W is for Walters. What a year Jonny Walters had for the Irish cause, weighed in with a massive winner against Georgia at Lansdowne Road but it was his two goals in the second leg play-off against Bosnia that elevated him to legendary status. His Irish background and tradition was also notable in his dedication of qualification to his late mother and his 100% honesty and heart and no little skill in the green shirt has brought him eternal love and respect from the Irish public.

 

X is for Xavi, who retired from top flight football in 2015 having helped Barcelona to the Champions League. One of my favourite players ever, skilful, creative, mentally tough and a winner. Thanks for the memories Xavi.

 

Y is for Year. It’s a been a great one and Happy New One to all!

 

Z is for zzzzzzzzzzzzz, Sky Sports News and listening to Thierry Henry’s punditry.

 

Happy New Year folks!