Tuesday, October 16, 2007

It's a Vision Thing

It was mentioned last week - by some members of the mongrel pack that huddle at the side of Malahide United's pitch for gristly morsels of quotes from the Republic of Ireland manager - that Stephen Staunton seemed in relatively "good form".

Some speculated that it was due to the bludgeoning being dished out on Eddie O'Sullivan, that the erstwhile paragon of Irish international managerial excellence was now occupying the stocks to which Staunton was usually bound. That line sounds glib, but, by the infantile standards of Staunton's usual public justifications, nonetheless believeable.

More likely, however, is that the manager was enjoying the hubris of suddenly-realised invulnerability. The trip to central Europe had been characterised by similar - if not quite as disastrous - incompetencies to the Cyprus fiasco of 11 months previously, yet the support of Staunton's employers for their manager rang out more loudly than the clamour for his removal.

The same selectorial eccentricities, further erroneous substitutions and a continuing overwhelming lack of sense of purpose were evident.

This is not to suggest that the players' commitment to the cause was lacking in any way; one of the redeeming features of Staunton's management is the undoubted efforts his players continue to provide. But no-one questioned the commitment of the soldiers at the Somme as they were ordered towards their doom, neither does anyone credit their commanders for it.

The fact that a dismal return from the pivotal qualification matches resulted in voluminous backing from the FAI must surely have emboldened Staunton thereafter, perhaps explaining then his levity of mood last week.

Nothing that happened on Saturday will have damaged or abetted the manager. The attitude of the players was once again excellent; the performance of Joey O'Brien another success for the blooding policy of this campaign.

But that sense of purposeless is highlighted at home more than anywhere. The understrength Germans' general comfort with proceedings pinpoints the sad demise of the Irish international team. No matter how low we think we are, in these days when we are constantly reminded to redefine our expectations, no international side, especially one denuded of most of their best players, should expect to sleepwalk their way through an international in Dublin.

The lack of a vision for his team is something which our manager should now be eliminating. The fact that Andy Reid has gone from pariah to the central hub of the team in the space of two games demontrates the haphazard nature of Staunton's stewardship. The tossing in of Andy Keogh on the right wing another random, surreal whim of a selection.

By this stage we should expect - whatever the other flaws - to have a notion of how Staunton's Ireland would ideally line-up and play. That we don't is the fundamental problem with this ramshackle, irrational operation.

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Not much more to add than that really.

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First time I've ever entertained the thought to leave a match early. That was the only entertainment of the 90 minutes... Terrible terrible terrible.

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