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Dublin: 5°C Sunday 7 March 2021

Ruud Dokter: Dutchman trying to find best medicine for Irish football

FAI’s new High Performance Director met the media for the first time yesterday.

Ruud Dokter and Noel King in Malahide this week.
Ruud Dokter and Noel King in Malahide this week.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

SIX MONTHS ON from the announcement of his appointment, and more than two months after he started work as the FAI’s High Performance director, the Dokter was finally ready to see us.

As Ireland prepared to fly out for Cologne, Ruud Dokter met the Irish media for the first time yesterday.

Inevitably there were questions about the many new hats the Dutchman has found himself wearing . Not only is he spearheading the hunt for Giovanni Trapattoni’s successor alongside Ray Houghton but he has also been asked to serve as Noel King’s number two for the upcoming games against Germany and Kazakhstan.

He was tight-lipped when the manager hunt came up, referring only to “lots of interest” and “an ongoing process.”

Instead he wanted to talk about plans to revamp the way Ireland nurtures its young talent.

The specifics of Dokter’s role are still a little hazy. He is at present reviewing the underage structures while also working on a technical plan and a technical committee, which he said will bring the relevant affiliates together.

In the course of a conversation which lasted six or seven minutes, the phrase “common philosophy” featured early and often. For Dokter’s plan to work, all of the different schoolboy bodies, all of the different stakeholders need to be on the same page.


INPHO/Donall Farmer

One concrete change he did mention is the possibility of lowering the age threshold for the FAI’s Emerging Talent Programme (ETP), the system which oversees the development of players from U14 to U17.

I would think about lowering the age group because if you lower the age group down to 11 or 10, you have more time to spend with your talented players and that’s very important.

With that extra time, coaches can work not only on technical ability but also on nurturing creativity in players.

“Creative players you have to develop and you can develop. That’s about coaching. Underage football shouldn’t be too focused on the result, not too much result-oriented or result-driven. It should be focused on developing.

That means you have to give players time and space to act and allow them to make mistakes. If you allow them to make mistakes, they will develop creativity. If you’re not doing that, you create fear.

The common philosophy that Dokter stresses, the unified threads of system and style which run all the way from underage level to the senior squad, should not be imposed at the expense of that freedom.

But the biggest challenge will be to get everybody on the same page; the systems will follow.

It will take time but Dokter is ready for that. He says he’s here for the long haul.

“I was lucky to be part of the developing process in Holland back in the 80s with Rinus Michels so I’ve seen it, I’ve done it, I know what it takes. It takes time, it takes a clear vision and it takes consistency. That’s very important.

There are so many chances in Ireland because you’ve got a great sporting culture. There’s a great passion for sport, a great passion for soccer.

“It’s a challenge to get everybody on the same page. I want to inspire people, inspire because there are so many opportunities in this country.”

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About the author:

Niall Kelly

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