October 2006: Delaney’s Donkey

“Now, Delaney had a donkey that everyone admired

Tempo’rily lazy and permanently tired

With a leg at ev’ry corner balancing its head

And a tail to let you know which end he wanted to be fed ….” 

This old Val Doonican ditty sprang to mind as I watched the Cypriots’ demolition job on Stan’s Laurel and Hardy-like Irish soccer team last Saturday. It is a song about a donkey, owned by a man called Delaney, who tried to get it to run a half-mile race. You can see where I’m coming from on this.

But there is no point in blaming Steve Staunton for the footballing farce that the current Irish team has become. The man to blame is John Delaney, who appointed his own “donkey”, as it were, to run the team after the incision of the knives between Brian Kerr’s shoulder blades.

All Staunton did wrong really was apply for the job. It was up to Delaney to ask the pertinent questions at the interview. It was not as if Steve was able to bluff his way into the post. After all, if Delaney asked him what experience he had at international level, he would have been found out fairly quickly if he claimed to have any at all.

Delaney had promised the nation that he would appoint a “world class manager”. He was obviously thinking of a world that he alone lives in:  one that few of us are familiar with and one that fewer football experts know either. As no “world class” candidate emerged, Delaney should have wondered why. Could it be, heaven forbid, that nobody wanted to work for his set-up?

Along comes Stan the Man, who should have smelled a rat when he got the job so handily. This was not a footballing appointment it was a political appointment. Delaney had made it well known that he had not favoured Kerr when the FAI appointed the latter, and before Delaney became Chief Executive.

He was now making sure everyone knew that Stan was his man. His managerial credentials were secondary to anything else. Delaney had him harnessed and ready for action in no time, and Staunton was lead around the parade like the prize donkey in the afore-mentioned song.

Dressing up the appointment by adding Bobby Robson to the Delaney Dream Team did nothing to help matters. Unfortunately, Sir Bob has been in poor health and his influence on the make-up, tactics and morale of the Irish team has been non-existent, exposing Steve Staunton’s hopelessly inept qualifications for the task of managing, motivating and mothering an international group of players.

Brian Kerr was co-commentator at the game in Cyprus. He must have found it difficult to talk at all during the game, given that he probably had his head up his sleeve most of the time, laughing at how things were panning out for Delaney and his donkey. Between that and trying to voice comments that did not contain even a hint of gloating, Kerr earned his corn, unlike the hapless Staunton stuck in the stands.

Steve Staunton has been hard to listen to when doing his media thing ever since his appointment. He still has not realised why he was appointed in the first place. It is almost as embarrassing to listen to comments, as it is to watch the players on the football pitch.

He parrots out all the football clichés that one would expect from somebody who hasn’t a clue what is happening around him. He knows it is his duty to defend players’ performances but it beggars belief that he could say that “the young lads did very well for us” when they have just been trounced by a team ranked 60 places below you in the world, 5-2. Who knows what his version of doing badly is?

Similarly, moaning on about how many players were on the injured list is not valid. Against Cyprus, Ireland had a defence made up of five Premiership players who played like a St Eunan’s Centenary Reunion team: if that is not an insult to those who watched the game last Saturday after turning out for their former school earlier in the day.

Some of these injuries apparently occurred due to the long plane journey home and the delays encountered. An experienced coach would have ensured that players would warm down properly after the game and have proper after-match treatment to keep them fit for the next game. Yet Staunton says such injuries are “bad luck”.

No, Steve, such pat statements and excuses are not fooling anybody. Stop beating yourself up, man, and admit the obvious. You have overreached yourself. You are not experienced enough and the international arena is beyond you as a manager at this point in time. A man who has his own agenda within the FAI and the Irish footballing world is using you.

Your race is run, Stephen. (I could say something about “ass” and “on the line” but I’ll spare you the blushes.)  For your own sanity, get out now and rehabilitate yourself by booking into Brian Kerr’s Ex-Managers’ Knacker’s Yard. I think it’s located in Bray somewhere.

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