Keane could do good job for Ireland – Kilbane
Ireland centurion defends Roy's record but Mick still the man
THE fall-out from the failed attempt to make the World Cup finals has led to a prolonged debate about the quality of the Ireland players, but Kevin Kilbane and Packie Bonner believe that the character of the group will determine the road from here.
Both are in the Mick McCarthy camp in terms of the race to replace Giovanni Trapattoni, although Kilbane would also be pretty happy if Roy Keane got the nod and disputes Alex Ferguson's inference that the Corkman has failed as a manager.
"Roy took a team from the bottom of the Championship and got them promoted," asserts Kilbane. "Regardless of what finances he had, that is an incredible achievement. I've played in that league and know how difficult it is to get out of it."
But while the retired servants ruminated over the talent pool available to the next boss, their primary concern is the lack of strong personalities in the camp – and that's why they feel inspirational direction is required from the top.
Kilbane spoke more extensively on the subject, agreeing with Robbie Keane's belief that Trapattoni's successor needs to "take no s***" – an indirect reference to unhappy tweets and inappropriate sulks, such as James McClean and Shane Long voicing their displeasure after Noel King's double-header in charge.
"The manager will know – whether it's Mick or Roy – that they've different characters in the squad than when they were playing or when Mick was manager," said Kilbane, who was speaking with Bonner at Dublin City Council's 'Shared Histories – Smart Futures' summit in Dublin Castle yesterday.
"The role of a player now goes way beyond the 90 minutes on the pitch – and that has probably been the case for the last 10 or 15 years. It's so easy to get on your phone and do something silly.
"You hear the stories... When James McClean tweeted after the Kazakhstan match (last year), I am told the lads were disappointed.
"The lads know themselves – John O'Shea and Richard Dunne and Robbie – that you cannot be doing that," he continued, adding that the senior players have to stay around to provide that guidance.
This ties in with the candidacy of Keane who, some believe, is too harsh on his players to be considered. Kilbane takes an alternative stance and thinks he should be interviewed.
"The problem with the modern-day player is that they cannot accept criticism," he says.
"Roy is from a ruthless environment – it was really intense at Manchester United.
"There has to come a time when a player has to look in the mirror and accept the criticism and responsibility that you have got.
"If you are going to appoint Roy there will be fireworks with the media and there could be fireworks within the squad at times as well.
"But you also had that under Mick, and under Big Jack. Mick was ferocious at times and had a temper on him.
"I can tell you that Mick would have frightened Robbie at 17, he would have frightened Damien Duff at 18 and 19. But, ultimately, they had respect for him and for what he did for their careers. He helped nurture them."
Bonner, who was goalkeeping coach during McCarthy's first Irish stint, feels the Yorkshireman would restore some elements that were lost under Trapattoni.
"One thing we probably would have been a bit critical of about Giovanni was the way he didn't trust the players to play the game," said the Donegal man, who is keeping himself busy with the establishment of a UEFA goalkeeping diploma that will improve specific coaching of that position.
"I liked Giovanni," he added. "But I think we'd love to get back to having someone with an Irish connection."
Kilbane and Bonner are, of course, potential candidates for the coaching staff and neither ruled themselves in or out.
Like everybody else, they are waiting to see how it all pans out. Both agreed, though, that it should happen sooner rather than later.
"Just look at Scotland," observed Bonner.
"Six months ago people were asking the same questions about Scotland and saying they wouldn't have a chance for the next 10 years.
"Gordon Strachan got in quickly, used games to set up the team and get the confidence up and I think that's the key to it.
"Now they're saying: 'We can qualify the next time around'."
With the right man in charge, and the requisite level of respect in the dressing room, they are confident that Ireland can do the same.