Sport Soccer

Saturday 24 March 2018

King promises to produce senior production line

Stephen Finn

New Republic of Ireland U-21 manager Noel King yesterday pledged to produce players for the senior international side and guide his youngsters to the finals of a major tournament.

King was given a ringing endorsement from FAI International Performance Director Wim Koevermans, who is convinced that the outgoing women's national team boss is the ideal candidate to replace Don Givens as U-21 chief.

King beat a host of well-known candidates to the role -- ex-Ireland striker David Kelly and former Liverpool academy director Steve Heighway were strongly linked with the position.

"It's not about glamour -- I won't go into names because there was a big group of people interested in the job, very good candidates, and it came down to few," Koevermans explained.

"It was my job to pick the best one. Many of the interviews were quite good but even if I chose based only on interviews, I probably would have made the same choice."

Koevermans had the advantage of watching King's work first-hand with both the senior women's international team and the successful U-17 women's side. King led the youngsters to a silver medal at the recent UEFA U-17 Championships and in the process saw the side qualify for the World Championships in Trinidad & Tobago in September.

Those fixtures -- including a clash with Brazil -- mean King will miss two UEFA U-21 Championships qualifying games for next year's tournament to be staged in Denmark -- against Turkey and Switzerland -- but his appointment is with the next campaign in mind.

"Noel's coaching ability made me choose him. The advantage for Noel is that I know him quite well," admitted Koevermans.

"I have tried to work as close as possible to our international managers to see how they work. Noel is good as a coach with the players and his ability to change things if needed in a game is quite strong."

Former Derry City, Shamrock Rovers, Finn Harps and Limerick FC boss King last worked in men's football with Shelbourne in a caretaker role in place of a convalescing Dermot Keely in 2001.

Despite the struggle Ireland have had in trying to achieve results in competitive U-21 games for more than 20 years, King sees his new position as something to be excited about.

"I put my name into the hat for the job because I felt could do it -- I've never applied for a job I didn't feel I could do," said King.

"Obviously I have a view of the past record of this team but I can't affect it. I can affect the future and I'd like to be very successful, to qualify for tournaments and produce players for the senior team."

Koevermans acknowledged that the FAI are eager to see the U-21 side emulate the senior squad and younger underage teams by qualifying for the final stages of a major European tournament.

Givens always felt the role was more developmental than results-based but King is keen to do things his own way -- starting with the next UEFA Championships qualifier against Estonia on August 10.

"Don (Givens) has a certain approach and I've a height of respect for him -- everybody has. He wasn't happy with the results either," said King. "I'm a different man and will bring something new, I hope. Something I feel strongly is that to develop, the team has to win.

"The more important matches the players play, the better they will learn. If we could get a team to a major finals and play against the very cream, then they have to improve."

King will be meeting senior boss Giovanni Trapattoni next week and revealed that the Italian had sent a goodwill message to the U-17 girls at the UEFA finals.

Irish Independent

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