A hero could save us

Old men

I’m baffled by what I’ve just witnessed on TV. Former Irish internationals and regular television pundits, Eamonn Dunphy and Johnny Giles, have just poured scorn on the appointment of Brian Kerr as the new Ireland manager. Am I being naive to believe so strongly that Kerr is the best appointment? Or are Dunphy and Giles just old men who moan in the same way that pensioners complain about the draught coming under the front door or the ‘state of youth today’. More on that later.

But first…there’s hardly anyone outside of Ireland who has heard of the new boss. So just who is Brian Kerr?

Who is he?

Brian Kerr Kerr, born in Dublin in 1953, turns 50 in March. His playing career was hardly spectacular. He played for Crumlin, Shelbourne, Rialto, College of Technology and Bluebell United. His only honour was an FAI Intermediate Cup medal with Bluebell in 1982.

His first management appointment was with Shelbourne, taking charge of their reserve team. He later progressed to Shamrock Rovers youth team duties before becoming assistant manager at Home Farm and Drogheda United. In the international sphere, he worked as assistant to Liam Tuohy with the Irish youths in 1982. In 1986 however, Tuohy and has team resigned after a row with the new Ireland manager Jack Charlton.

Later that year he took over as manager of St Patricks Athletic and turned them into league champions in 1990 and 1996.

Best known for

In 1997 he rejoined the Irish set up when he became manager of the Irish youths. It is in this spell that he had his greatest success. He led the youths to third place in the Youth World Cup in Malaysia in 1997, and again in Nigeria in 1999.

Incredibly he picked up two European Championships in 1998. He led the Under 16s to victory with a win over Italy, and the Under 18s to a triumph over Germany.

But it doesn’t stop there. This year the Under 20s have qualified for the World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, and only two weeks ago the Irish won a mini-tournament there, defeating the UAE and France.

Is that not good enough for the likes of Dunphy and Giles?


The key word seems to be ‘politics’. Dunphy called Kerr a politician. The former Millwall and Ireland midfielder pointed out that Kerr’s reluctance to reveal anything about himself does not bode well. Where does it come from? Well, Kerr was asked in an interview what his ‘style’ is. He didn’t answer. He said he couldn’t answer. He merely explained that it was up to other people to work out his style.

If this is a ‘politician’ at work then fair enough. But remember, Kerr is a successful politician and I think everyone likes a successful politician. Anyway, Dunphy has an unhealthy anarchistic obsession with bringing down the FAI and wishes to have someone in charge that will challenge the establishment. He probably doesn’t think Kerr will do this and would rather a rottweiler like Joe Kinnear was in charge I guess.

The Process

Both Giles and Dunphy were angry about the selection process which involved a panel of peers interviewing candidates. One member of that panel that raised the ire in particular was former Northern Ireland manager Bryan Hamilton. Indeed one wonders why Hamilton was considered to be suitable for the job in hand.

Giles said that the public embarrassing of people like Bryan Robson was unacceptable. Robson was interviewed and it was decided not to hire him. Embarrassing? Not half as embarrassing as Robsons total inability to manage at the top level.

Joe and Kenny

Joe Kinnear and Kenny Dalglish were considered the best men for the job by the pundits. Kinnear said he wasn’t interested as he ‘doesn’t do interviews’. If I understand Johnny Giles right, it should have been a case of simply calling Kinnear and offering him the job. This doesn’t even begin to make sense.

Kinnear was successful at Wimbledon for several years before his heart attack and new Norwegian owners saw him shifted on to pastures new. He has also done a solid job at Luton in Division Two, gaining promotion last season. But he’s gruff and stubborn, and one thinks that his friendship with his fellow RTE pundits is the only reason he is so highly regarded for the job.

Dalglish is an enigma. An undoubted success at Liverpool and Blackburn where he won titles, he led Newcastle to the FA Cup final in 1998 before throwing in the towel there. He could make a good international manager but really, could he be bothered?

Best man

Kerr is a ‘grass roots’ man. He’s been there. He knows the players. He has helped bring through the likes of Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and John O’Shea. Whatever the misgivings of Ireland’s top pundits, the people and the press have got the man they want. They didn’t want a Premiership failure (Robson, Reid), or a part-time golfer (Dalglish) or a Johnny Foreigner (Troussier). They wanted Kerr and the FAI gave it to them.

Will he be a success? I think so. I’m not sure it will happen this time around – two defeats from two already means that he’s got to win just about every remaining match – but I hope that the WC2006 qualifiers will see Kerr mould a team similar in style and structure to McCarthys but without the managerial black spots that blighted the latter’s.

A hero could save us, you know.

And finally…

I’ve just come back from a three week trip to London where I was lucky enough to see Tottenham up close and personal. After seeing us slog our way to a lucky 4-3 home win over Everton, we then solidly beat a dismally poor Aston Villa 1-0 at Villa Park. The final game was a disappointing home defeat to Newcastle, a last minute Jermaine Jenas goal sneaking victory for the Geordies.

Overall it was a very trying experience. My disillusionment with Glenn Hoddle certainly wasn’t tempered by watching the way we gave goals away so easily against Everton and failed to create many chances against Newcastle. There were of course high points. Robbie Keane almost single-handedly dismissed Everton, in fact Spurs could be accused of being a one-man team as they struggle badly without him. Darren Anderton has shown flashes of brilliance, and finally Dean Richards looks to be close to being a top notch defender.

But there’s still too much faith put in mediocre and over-the-hill players. I worry about a first team that has the likes of Steffen Iversen, Goran Bunjevcevic, Gus Poyet and Teddy Sheringham playing key roles. And then there’s the poor form of Ledley King and the downward slide of Gary Doherty – a target for angry fans who forget what an excellent talent he looked two years ago.

Hoddle is probably not the man, but I’ve thought that for nearly two years. However, with good managers hard to come by and the board more broke than the two students in “Withnail and I”, we might as well stick with him. At least we won’t get relegated.


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