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Ryan Byrne/INPHO Ruud Dokter (file pic)
# Influence
'I hope he is proud' - Praise for the man who helped instigate Ireland's youth football rejuvenation
A number of promising youngsters have emerged of late and Vera Pauw says Ruud Dokter deserves credit.

LAST UPDATE | Jun 16th 2022, 8:05 AM

Updated at 16.01

IRISH COACH Vera Pauw has praised the contribution of Ruud Dokter amid the feel-good factor currently surrounding the game in this country.

The Dutchman succeeded Wim Koevermans as the Football Association of Ireland’s High-Performance Director in 2013 and stayed in the role until the end of last year when he stepped down at the end of his contract.

Dokter had a big say in the FAI’s 2015 Player Development Plan and also was key in introducing national underage leagues that resulted in many League of Ireland teams forming links with top schoolboy clubs.

Yet the 66-year-old proved a divisive figure during his time in the role — in 2019, the Schoolboy Football Association of Ireland told the FAI they had passed a motion of no confidence in the performance director amid talk of a contract extension.

But Irish underage football appears to have benefited on the back of this era, with the U21 side recently reaching the playoffs for the first time ever, while several promising youngsters, including Gavin Bazunu, Nathan Collins and Troy Parrott, have been fast-tracked to the senior team.

In women’s football too, there have been encouraging signs — Pauw’s side are in a strong position to qualify for the World Cup qualification playoffs after the hard-fought 1-1 draw with Sweden in April, while talented youngsters such as Ellen Molloy, Jessie Stapleton and Aoibheann Clancy have been among those to win senior call-ups in recent times.

While many individuals have played a role in the development of these starlets, Pauw feels Dokter’s influence should not be overlooked.

Asked about the recent positivity emanating from the encouraging performances by the men’s, women’s and 21s teams, Pauw said: “I think there is one person somewhere who is very proud, and that is Ruud Dokter. Ruud Dokter has set the structures, has set the pathway against all odds.

“I know there are different ideas about it, but I think all the results that are coming out now, everybody needs to realise that they are not coming out of the air.

“These are players who were able to develop seamlessly on the pathway that brought them to a top-level, both girls and women, and boys and men.

“If you see where our players now are, as soon as a player is developing to a certain level they immediately are offered contracts abroad. There are now players staying here to grow further before going, but there are players already at a young age having contracts on their desks.

“They know the structure is in place and that they have a good base and they can do it. That is really due to Ruud Dokter. So I hope he is proud looking from the outside into the results.”

Pauw knows Dokter better than most. She was captain of the Dutch women’s team for part of his time as manager between 1995 and 2001, while he was also understood to be key to her appointment as Ireland manager in 2019.

Asked whether they still keep in touch, Pauw replied: “Not much, we saw each other last week at a conference, but we are not calling each other every day. We didn’t do that before I came here, but we get on very well, so at times we call each other. I give my regards to him and he gives his regards back.”

English-born Marc Canham is expected to effectively succeed Dokter in the newly created Director of Football role and Pauw is optimistic the new man can have a positive impact.

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“We are all looking forward to the technical director, the new Director of Football, and hopefully that will bring the game from there even further.

“I’m sure they have chosen somebody who keeps the momentum going, who’s capable of making the next steps. They’ve not been looking at who’s the biggest name, they’ve been looking at who gives us quality of input. Although nobody knows him in his work, that in itself gives a good feeling because that means the management really went for somebody who can keep going with the development that’s been done so far. They’ve chosen for a direction of quality. Everybody is looking forward to working with him.”

Meanwhile, speaking at the squad announcement yesterday, Pauw also elaborated on her reasons for calling up Stephanie Roche after a long absence from the squad, hinting the 33-year-old striker could add to her 55 caps in games later this month against the Philippines and Georgia.

“It’s a mixture of what she shows and what she needs, and players being injured. You can imagine that a player like Stephanie against Georgia might be a solution.

“She showed herself last night [in a behind-closed-doors game] that she was the player who always found length in our game, where we were actually lacking length. She really made a difference last night.

“We had a place open, so we decided to bring her. It’s about the best players. At this moment it’s not about the future or giving players experience, because she might even end up in the squad of 23 or maybe even in the line-up, we’ll see.

“She was delighted [to get the call-up]. And us too. A player that needs to carry so many disappointments and to be so positive and always keep going, that’s a huge compliment when you make the squad again. She is a fantastic person in the group.”

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