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Phil Babb
Phil Babb

Joined: 07 Feb 2007
Status: Offline
Points: 45
Direct Link To This Post Topic: From the Guardian
    Posted: 09 Feb 2007 at 3:12am

Stan gets Ireland into another fine mess

The knives are out for Steve Staunton after Ireland's humiliating victory over San Marino last night, and so they should be.

In the fourth minute of added time in last night's only Euro 2008 qualifier, the Republic of Ireland bundled home a winner they scarcely deserved against the 198th ranked team in the world. The goal prompted celebrations that would have looked excessive if they'd just won the World Cup final.

Stephen Ireland's strike ensured a 2-1 victory over the butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers of San Marino, but it's a measure of how far the Irish have plummeted under Steve Staunton that many supporters would have preferred the humiliation that not scoring would have entailed.

Having run the gauntlet of the screaming fans who paid large amounts of their own money to shiver in awe through yet another staggeringly gutless performance, Ireland's hapless manager was left rooting around for positives like a pig in search of truffles. "We showed fighting spirit," he declared. "We controlled the game from start to finish. We're grateful for the three points."

Grateful for three points against San Marino after attempting to sit on a one-goal lead - has it really come to this?

Having played the worst team in Europe twice and played more times than any other team in Group D, Ireland currently sit third with a goal difference of just +2, having been turned into an international laughing stock by both the San Marino Arms and Cyprus & Duck.

And despite increasingly preposterous platitudes from Stan and his players about turning corners, tides and points, the qualification jig couldn't be more up if it overdosed on Viagra. Small wonder, then, that the knives are out for Staunton in the Irish media: Stan as Kermit the Frog ... Stan as Steve McQueen ... Standalous - if Ireland's footballers went about their work with half as much gusto as the country's tabloid subs and picture editors, qualification for Euro 2008 would be a formality.

Meanwhile in the broadsheets, the focus has been the Ireland manager's apparent inability to appreciate the depths of the international abyss into which his team finds itself freefalling. "Jesus wept," wrote Tom Humphries, not knowing how else to begin his survey of the carnage in the Irish Times. "Ireland's ineptitude defied description. The Irish manager seemed content, though, that 'we had four chances after they scored. That showed tremendous spirit'."

Staunton, unsurprisingly, insists that even if Ireland hadn't scraped home, he wouldn't have fallen on his sword. And while it would be foolish of anyone to try and predict what the buffoonish panjandrums of the Football Association of Ireland would do in any given set of circumstances, the demands from the cheapseats for John Delaney's head will not have gone unnoticed by the blazer-in-chief. It was Delaney who appointed Staunton after promising the country "a world-class coach". Plying his trade on Paul Merson's resolutely unsuccessful coaching staff at the time, Stan wasn't even Walsall class.

Jobs for the boys, we call it at home. But while it would hurt Delaney to knife his old drinking and golfing buddy in the back so soon after his appointment, it's an unpleasant task no FAI official worth his salt would think twice about committing in the interests of self-preservation. Now thanks to Ireland's late, late tap-in, both men have bought themselves time that they don't deserve.

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Paul McGrath
Paul McGrath

Joined: 06 Feb 2007
Location: Romania
Status: Offline
Points: 17142
Direct Link To This Post Posted: 09 Feb 2007 at 3:44am
Another one for Stans scrapbook!
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