Monday 11 December 2017

Hoops bite back after O'Neill's stinging criticism

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

SHAMROCK ROVERS chairman Jonathan Roche has defended the club's board in the wake of stinging criticism from former manager Michael O'Neill.

Earlier this week, the Northern Ireland boss accused the Hoops hierarchy of lacking ambition and not capitalising on their 2011 European success, saying he asked for a 10pc increase in budget to go full-time after their Europa League adventure.

But Roche, who was one of a the group of Rovers fans who rescued the club from financial ruin in the wake of examinership, says that the club's board had learned from their mistakes.

"It is regrettable that people can't move on," he said. "Michael had great success with us. The board went to Scotland and got Michael, we had a very successful three years which ended last year.

"10pc of our budget is €200,000. We've seen how clubs have gone when they went full-time and as a board and as members all we care about is being as successful as possible, but in such a way that I'm not getting phone calls from journalists asking why I haven't paid the wages this month.

"That's the most important thing, to have a sustainable, vibrant football club, which we do have."

Roche counters the argument that Rovers missed an opportunity last year when they followed up their historic season with a trophyless campaign that saw them exit Europe at the first hurdle and fail to qualify for this season, saying that the long-term future was paramount.

"I don't think there was a lost opportunity," he said. "People move on. Maybe they get international jobs, maybe they get jobs in the UK. We're here forever. We need to think about the mid-term and long-term future of the football club.

"We tried our best last year but it wasn't to be, we are trying our best this year and are off to a good start. No, I would disagree with the comments."

Having recorded a turnover of €2.2m last year, down from the previous season when the Europa League prize money significantly boosted the coffers, Roche says that the club have reduced their budget by approximately 2pc this season.

"I think the league and where we are now is in a good place and is financially sustainable," he said.

"We have a budget that we work hard to meet and that is a good place to be. We're not comfortable about our budget, we have to work hard at things like sponsorship and attendances to make it work.

"We had a big budget last year, we don't have the biggest budget this year. We're not league champions and things can change very quickly in football. We need to enjoy success when we have it."

Meanwhile, Roche said that Rovers fans who caused trouble during the Setanta Cup clash against Linfield at Windsor Park on Monday had let the club down and would be banned indefinitely.

"We had 600 fans there. There were 20-30 people who let the club down and embarrassed everybody," he said.

"Gardai from Tallaght were in the Windsor Park control room working with the PSNI. The people are clearly identified, or will be as they are on CCTV, they won't be allowed into our home matches and we will do our best to prevent them going to away matches."

Irish Independent

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