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Dublin: 9 °C Wednesday 20 March, 2019

Omar, Jewell and El Tel: A glance at the madness that has been Ireland's recent managerial pursuits

Surely it can’t be long before Troussier rears his head once more.

2002-2003: Taking the Mick

Damien Duff and Ricardo Cabanas 16/10/2002 DIGITAL Ireland's 2-1 home defeat to Switzerland in Euro 2004 qualifying signalled the end for Mick McCarthy's six-year reign Source: INPHO

LESS THAN THREE weeks after Swiss defender Fabio Celestini’s 87th-minute winner at Lansdowne Road delivered upon Ireland a second successive defeat in Euro 2004 qualifying — prompting chants of ‘There’s Only One Keano’ from the home faithful at the final whistle — Mick McCarthy agreed a severance package with the FAI and left his role as manager of the national team after six and a half years in charge.

David O’Leary, John Toshack, John Aldridge and Joe Kinnear were immediately earmarked as potential successors ahead of March’s qualifier with Georgia, while Don Givens was given the reins on a caretaker basis for a friendly against Greece a fortnight after McCarthy’s departure.

Ireland drew 0-0 in Greece in a game best remembered for Bohemians striker Glen Crowe becoming the first League of Ireland player in 16 years — after Shamrock Rovers’ Pat Byrne — to line out for the Boys in Green.

Glen Crowe and Ioannis Goumas 20/11/2002 DIGITAL Crowe closes down Ioannis Goumas during one of the worst games of football in living memory Source: INPHO

McCarthy’s departure would soon birth the recurring phenomenon that is Philippe Troussier being linked with the Ireland job. The former Japan manager told the BBC in late 2002: “I have been approached by five or six national teams and Ireland is one of them.”

Troussier wasn’t the only Frenchman approached regarding the position, however. Raymond Domenech — who incidentally currently manages the Brittany national team, but was then France’s U21 manager — confirmed to The Guardian in 2016 that he too had interviewed for the role.

“I made it on to a three-man shortlist for the Ireland job and was interviewed for it in Paris,” he said. “In the end they decided to give it to an Irishman, Brian Kerr. But I would have adored it if I’d got it. I love Ireland and the Irish. I love the atmosphere there.”

As it would later transpire, Domenech’s French senior side put the kibosh on Ireland’s attempts to reach both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, Thierry Henry’s Lansdowne Road strike during the former campaign one of the final nails in Kerr’s coffin.

Raymond Domenech This might have become a more familar site had things gone differently for Domenech at a Paris meeting with the FAI in 2002 Source: Andrew Paton/INPHO

Troussier, meanwhile, was supposedly informed over the phone by a sympathetic member of the public that he and fellow interviewees Domenech, Bryan Robson, Kevin Moran, Peter Reid, Frank Stapleton, John Aldridge had been beaten to the position by Kerr, whose appointment had been winked at long in advance of the official announcement on 26 January 2003.

Days prior, an internal FAI squabble involving Mick McCarthy’s agent — complete with legal threats — over a €168,000 bonus paid to the former manager during the previous World Cup had also become public knowledge, causing the delay of Kerr’s unveiling.

Kerr’s Ireland stint reached its conclusion in 2005 as Ireland finished fourth in World Cup qualification behind France, Switzerland and Israel, but only three points behind Domenech’s group winners.

Domenech, meanwhile, led France to a World Cup final in 2006 before a player revolt at South Africa 2010 spelt the end for his tumultuous reign at the helm of Les Bleus.

Thierry Henry Henry fires the winner at Lansdowne Road in 2005 Source: INPHO

2005: The search for a ‘world class manager’

After Kerr was let go, the FAI turned their attention to Martin O’Neill who promptly ruled himself out of the running.

Enter ‘The White Witchdoctor’, Philippe Troussier.

“It’s an honour to be linked with the job,” the Parisian said in October 2005. “The financial conditions would also not be a problem.

“If I want to get money, I know where I have to go. To accept this kind of job is not for the money.

“To take a decision to employ a foreign coach would not be so easy and makes it even more of a victory for me that my name is being linked with this job.”

However, despite his incessant flirtation with the FAI throughout the summer and autumn of 2005, Troussier — who had been sacked months previous by Marseille having missed out on European qualification — never received the call.

Screenshot (3626) You might notice a trend...

Nor did his compatriot Jacques Santini, who himself had expressed literally no interest in the position but was nonetheless added to the mix by several Irish pundits.

With betting companies by this stage getting to grips with how to manipulate the press for marketing purposes, John Aldridge was propelled to the front of the queue in November ’05 when some fella in Glasgow was reported by one chain to have dropped the gargantuan sum of… £600… on the former Liverpool striker in one of their stores, causing this particular chain to claim they were inexplicably on the verge of suspending betting on his appointment.

Recently sacked by Hearts, George Burley also moved to odds-on at one stage; Bobby Robson almost accidentally became a favourite — again only briefly — by refusing to rule himself out of the running; Terry Venables was also mentioned fleetingly while poor Philippe Troussier continued to bang at the door somewhere on the periphery of our national subconscious, where of course he remains to this day.

Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2002 - Second Round - Japan v Turkey Philippe Troussier, then Japan manager Source: EMPICS Sport

John Delaney had promised supporters a ‘world class coach’ in light of Kerr’s relative shortcomings, and so one might (and frankly did) wonder how it came to pass that Walsall player-coach Steve Staunton — with the blessing of his own manager at the time, Paul Merson — wound up in the hot seat.

We know the answer, of course. Troussier had alluded to it at least partially.

Staunton was given some world-class company in the shape of the great Bobby Robson, who was appointed ‘international football consultant’ by the FAI, forcing Staunton to lay down his ‘I’m the gaffer’ marker which would follow him throughout his tenure like a lingering fart.

It became one of the defining memories of a rotten couple of years along with the Cyprus and San Marino debacles, Stephen Ireland’s departure from international football after six caps and four goals, and Robson — while recovering from a recent operation on a brain tumour which had left him paralysed on his left-hand side — going to bat for Staunton on RTÉ’s Liveline following Ireland’s most embarrassing victory of all time.

A General View of Sir Bobby Robson Robson was subjected to over an hour's worth of questions from Joe Duffy and his callers after Ireland's 2-1 win over San Marino Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

2007-2008: Getting involved

Staunton’s October 2007 departure harkened the banter era of Irish managerial pursuits.

After he was voted out of the job at Dublin Airport Hotel — having failed to make a sufficiently convincing case in person to the 10-man committee — Graeme Souness and, of course, bookies’ favourite David O’Leary, were almost immediately mooted as prospective replacements.

Naturally, they would face competition in the shape of Philippe Troussier — or at least the manager formerly known as Philippe Troussier: while in charge of Morocco in 2015, he had converted to Islam and changed his name to ‘Omar’.

“I have been living in Morocco for more than 15 years and during that time, I worked in South Africa, Nigeria, Japan and Marseille,” Troussier said.

“It’s not a problem to live in Morocco or Paris or London. Ireland’s an international country and it’s not difficult to move around.”

Days after Staunton’s removal in late October, the Frenchman was at 14/1 alongside another, Gerard Houllier, as well as John Aldridge and Co Adriaanse — Porto’s double-winning Dutchman who had a Gameboy Color game named after him.


The games were only beginning, however. The decision was assigned solely to external headhunters, with John Delaney explaining: “We’ll ask them to come up with one name, and we’ll ratify that regardless of any reservations.

“It will be a completely external decision. They will come with a name, the parameters of a salary and a package and then we’ll get involved.”

By mid-November, the FAI insisted they were yet to approach any prospective coach despite widespread reports — however reliable — to the contrary.

Their claim struck as all the more strange when John Giles confirmed he had spoken to Paul Jewell about the vacant position having extended his services to John Delaney.

Wigan manager Jewell had recently turned down a new deal at what was then the JJB Stadium and Giles, believing the Liverpudlian to be an outstanding candidate to take the Ireland reins, felt it best to sit him down for a chat before he was snapped up by another club.

In a Sky Sports News interview just over a week later, however, Jewell confirmed he would instead be seeking a return to club management.

“I spoke to Johnny Giles at length last week and he did a great job of selling the post, if it was to be offered to me,” he said.

“I rang Johnny to say that after serious consideration I’m really flattered but have decided not to be considered.”

If only the interview ended there.

Then the FAI chief executive called me to ask me if I would reconsider. But I’m beginning to miss the day to day involvement with the players on the training ground. That’s what I’m looking for now.

Paul Jewell, manager of Wigan celebrates his sides victory 24/9/2005 Paul Jewell informed Johns Giles and Delaney that he was not interested in the vacant Ireland job Source: Laurence Griffiths

Speculation also suggested that, the day of Jewell’s Sky interview, John Delaney had met with another potential candidate in London — but crucially not Terry Venables who had become the lead candidate at that point.

Days after the Jewell mess, Ireland striker Kevin Doyle publicly backed ‘El Tel’, also confirming that members of the FAI had canvassed a number of ‘senior’ Ireland players for their thoughts on potential Staunton replacements. One of those, captain Robbie Keane, described Venables — with whom he had worked at Leeds — as “a great guy.”

After doing 10 days of homework, Eamon Dunphy famously voiced his disagreement with that assessment on RTÉ.

Meanwhile, as people continued to ponder the extent to which John Delaney was involved in the recruitment process despite vowing to take a back seat, one man who quite jarringly became involved was the great Howard Kendall, the Everton giant who, despite having been out of the game for eight years, decided to stick his hand up in early December.

“I’ve had long enough out of it now and I feel it would be perfect for me and hopefully for them,” said Kendall, who wanted to draft in Peter Beardsley as his assistant. “I’ve made some inquiries.”

Add to the mix Liam Brady, who tried to distance himself from the top job despite his old pal John Giles claiming separately that ‘Chippy’ remained in the frame.

However, it was Venables who remained the frontrunner well into the New Year. On 2 February, John Delaney confirmed that the FAI hoped to have a manager in place in and around Ireland’s upcoming friendly with Brazil.

“All I will say is that there has been far more interest in the job than before,” Delaney said. “All kinds of names have been bandied about in the media – from Sam Allardyce to Kenny Dalglish – the list goes on and on. But we have deliberately taken our time. Hopefully we will announce the new manager by Wednesday [6 February].”

There was no announcement on the Wednesday.

Soccer - International Friendly - Austria v England - Ernst Happel Stadion - Vienna Venables had been sacked by England along with manager Steve McClaren after they missed out on Euro 2008 qualification Source: PA Archive/PA Images

There was no announcement on the Thursday, either. Nor the Friday or Saturday.

On the Sunday, having per his account received an instruction to do so, Terry Venables made an announcement: he was still “fully committed” to Ireland should the vacancy be offered to him.

But there was a new favourite for the job, selected by a committee of Ray Houghton and Dons Givens and Howe. On the Tuesday — just under four months after Steve Staunton’s sacking and with some help from Denis O’Brien — Giovanni Trappatoni was appointed Irish manager, bringing with him into the fold Marco Tardelli and one Liam Brady.

Dunphy’s November rant, according to Terry Venables, had “frightened” the FAI and caused them to leave him “sitting there like a prick, really.”

He had choice words for the RTÉ pundit, too — “How can he get away with it and how can people listen to this on a continual basis” being one of the more pertinent jibes contained within a Sunday Independent interview in March.

Dunphy responded on RTÉ Radio, saying: “Ah, nobody is afraid of me. You can’t win arguments by being a bully — you can only win arguments if you can persuade people. I think the most important factor in Terry Venables not getting the job is that the public generally didn’t want him.”

John Delaney, Giovanni Trapattoni, Raymond Coyle John Delaney, Giovanni Trapattoni and Raymond Coyle enjoy some cheese and onion Taytos Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO


It was actually Martin O’Neill who emerged as the early favourite to succeed Trapattoni after the Italian’s September sacking, while Eamon Dunphy dismissed the initially 16/1 Roy Keane on account of the facts that his stint at Sunderland had finished “like a soap opera” and that we was “throwing players out the door” during his follow-up spell at Ipswich.

As we know, a terrible beauty was born a couple of months afterwards.

Mick McCarthy was down at second-favourite with the bookies but, for what it’s worth, the former Boys in Green boss stole a serious march on O’Neill in a fan poll ran by a website then known as

Along with Keane, outside possibilities at the time included Brian McDermott, Liam Brady and Rene Meulensteen, while in early October the Irish Independent linked Carlos Queiroz and Guus Hiddink with the post, acknowledging that the latter in particular remained a long shot.

2018-: We go again


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