The Football Association of Ireland have hired Rudd Dokter, the former Netherlands U-17 coach to be part of their coaching set up.
The hope is that Ireland can follow in the ways of the Dutch and punch well above their weight and challenge for honours.
For decades now the flat country the size of Munster has continued to pump out world-class footballers in what seems like a production line, first there were Cryuff and Neeskens then Van Basten and Gullit and now Van Persie and Sneijder.
Is it possible to follow in their footsteps, adapt to their coaching methods and become one of the best? Yes, I think they can, but before this can happen there needs to be a lot of change.
First they must overhaul the youth development and stop relying on the English game as a finishing school for Irish talent and take matters into their own hands.
For too long Irish players have seen England as their only avenue to success and see the domestic game as a last resort if they don’t make it cross channel.
The underage game is also in disarray, cross channel clubs normally only pay attention to traditionally strong schoolboy teams like Home Farm, Stella Maris and St Kevin’s which are all situated in Dublin.
This restricts the growth of the game in areas outside the capital such as Galway, which is dominated by GAA and Rugby and no longer has a top flight team.
Even though there are a number of senior internationals from outside the capital, most of them had to do it the hard way with players like David Forde, Kevin Doyle and Shane Long grafting it out for a number of years with their local clubs before being gifted the opportunity in England.
On the other hand the Eredivisie is a hive of activity, even though the championship normally boils down to the top two Ajax and PSV, the rest of the clubs have thriving academies which cater for the complete development of the young players and their education creating rounded, intelligent and robust footballers like Arjen Robben and Rafael van der Vaart which are perfectly suited for the modern game.
Next, the FAI must prepare for the future and make a long term plan, and obviously this plan has little room for the ”catenaccio cardinals” Trapattoni and Tardelli whose stale tactics have gone as far as they could but it is time for change.
The game has moved on since both of these men were at the peak of their powers but it is time for serious change, the game gets faster and more technical by the day and long ball tactics will just not cut it against good football teams as was shown against Austria, and if we continue like this we could find ourselves in steady decline.
And finally the FAI must rid itself of cronyism and corruption once and for all, you know when the chief executive of the association is earning €100,000 more than his Italian and Spanish counterparts combined, a mere €430,000 per annum and the prize money for the champions of the domestic game’s top flight is a paltry €100,000 there is something seriously wrong.
A culture of penny pinching and bad organization which is chronicled in Roy Keane’s autobiography and has had a long presence in the boardrooms of the Irish game and if it doesn’t stop soon it will nip lofty ambitions in the bud. If we have the best fans in the world surely we deserve the best team in the world.
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