Monday 22 January 2018

Box-office duo must find way to fuse their talents

Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

MARTIN O'Neill's decision to ask Roy Keane to join him on his adventure with Ireland inevitably brings up the subject of famous soccer managerial double acts.

On paper it looks sublime: two men from opposite ends of the island who have known success at the highest level in their playing careers now combining their talents and expertise on behalf of the Irish international team. It's box-office with a touch of showbiz and a frisson of drama – particularly given Keane's notorious bust-ups at international and club level.

And O'Neill is not willing to suffer fools or criticism too gladly either. The bottom line is that they know football inside out and their task is to deliver Ireland a place in the 2016 European Championship finals.

The big question is whether O'Neill and Keane can fuse their talents and positive traits to draw the best out of what is an honest but relatively limited talent pool of international players.

If they can, Ireland fans will be in for a treat and we could be waxing lyrical about the O'Neill-Keane double act in the same way that Nottingham Forest and Derby supporters recall the Brian Clough-Peter Taylor combination.

There are, however, a few issues about any expectations that it will work out as a 'dream team'.

For a start, very few manager-assistant combinations have ever been elevated to legendary status and there's a reason for that: in football someone has to be clearly seen to be the boss.

In British football, when we talk about the legends of the game, there was never any doubt about the status of the No 1 man. Matt Busby, Bill Shankly, Bill Nicholson, Jock Stein, Don Revie and Ron Greenwood brought their clubs success in domestic and European competition and were rightly accorded the kudos they deserved as kings of their local domain.

Of course, Shankly had the help of the famous Anfield 'boot room' which produced Joe Fagan and Bob Paisley. Clough was the boss at Derby County and Forest, but his assistant Taylor was an essential partner in the success that they enjoyed together.

At Manchester City, Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison brought the club from the doldrums and the club blossomed under their reign. The FAI tried out a Steve Staunton-Bobby Robson combo, but it didn't work. Giovanni Trapattoni had Marco Tardelli with him and they have to be given credit for getting Ireland to Euro 2012.

Martin and Roy? It remains to be seen, but fingers crossed they can do a 'Clough and Taylor' on our football fortunes.

Irish Independent

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