In 2008 Cork-born businessman Denis O’Brien stumped up the cash to part-fund Giovanni Trapattoni’s appointment as Ireland manager, and he’s ready to do it again, but he must be careful about the money going towards the wrong man.
In the past 20 years Ireland have had a relatively modest approach to appointing the biggest names in the game.
Until Trapattoni’s appointment five years ago, Ireland’s next sexiest manager was arguably Jack Charlton – the long ball lover from Northumberland. That says all it has to.
The country certainly wasn’t used to seeing astronomical fees going towards the management of the national football team, but the FAI – with O’Brien’s riches – played the Trapattoni game. Too long in fact.
Now they have a chance to return to their humble and just as effective ways, but whether they will is another matter.
In 2008 Ireland were lagging, they hadn’t qualified for a tournament in six years and had failed to come genuinely close apart from the 2006 World Cup qualifying campaign under Brian Kerr.
Trapattoni was a knight in shining armour following the notorious reign of Steve Staunton.
That was a reign that saw a 5-2 loss to Cyprus and a slender 2-1 win over San Marino crown Staunton as one of Ireland’s worst managers in recent history.
But Trapattoni was up to the challenge early in his Ireland career; he steadied the ship somewhat, brought stability to what was an ever-changing squad and brought back a tough-to-beat mentality that had been missing.
Despite the initial bliss of the 73-year-old’s stint, he appeared to be outstaying his welcome after a humiliating showing at the European Championships in 2012.
The former Juventus manager had almost taken Ireland to a World Cup in South Africa in 2010, but his tactics stifled a team that had more attacking talent than the Italian was led to believe.
His early period in the job saw his wages almost justified, but when the results, along with any sparse performances, dried up the wages became a focal point of public ire. And rightly so.
For Trapattoni had, after initial success, seemingly turned the Ireland job into a handsome retirement fund.
It’s true he has left Ireland in a slightly better state than he found them, but he may have set a dangerous precedent.
The pride has been partially restored in this qualifying campaign, and any manager coming in will have better players available to them than Trapattoni did in 2008, but the FAI should be careful who they appoint.
The pride is there, the players are there in most positions. Don’t make the Irish job the most lucrative part-time job in Europe – get the right man, not the biggest name (or pay packet).
A name doing the rounds is Hector Cuper. Former Valencia, Inter Milan, Real Betis and Georgia boss Hector Cuper. Gerard Houllier is also often mentioned.
But the FAI needs to forget about going for the foreign guy with the huge wage demands. Tell Denis O’Brien “thanks but no thanks” and focus on getting a British or Irish manager.
Ireland don’t need a great coach, they need a good manager. International football is not about helping players hone their skills; it’s about managing people and proving to be tactically adept.
Trapattoni was stuck in his ways and, like Cuper and to a lesser extent Houllier, was not exactly a master of the English language.
The FAI and the Republic of Ireland need a manager who can communicate effectively with players and understand the Irish footballing landscape.
That won’t be Hector Cuper or Gerard Houllier, but as long as the FAI has O’Brien’s money to use, you can be sure they’ll play high stakes.