Sport League of Ireland

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Robinson hits back at criticism of Hoops' plans for future

A general view of Shamrock Rovers' Tallaght Stadium. Six defeats from ten first-team games this year has resulted in criticism from outside the club. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
A general view of Shamrock Rovers' Tallaght Stadium. Six defeats from ten first-team games this year has resulted in criticism from outside the club. Photo: Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

The short-term priority for Shamrock Rovers is a game with Limerick tonight which they need to win to get a faltering season back on track.

But the Tallaght club used their routine pre-match press event to announce another development related to their long-term focus. They have linked up with Blanchardstown-based Corduff in a deal that will strengthen Rovers' presence on the schoolboy scene. And it's clear they are serious about doing business in that area.

Six defeats from ten first-team games this year has resulted in criticism from outside the club. The claim is that Rovers have taken their eye off the ball at senior level as they concentrate on building from the bottom up.

The appointment of rookie manager Stephen Bradley and a relatively young coaching staff was further held up as a move with a view to the future.

And their Academy director Shane Robinson, an influential figure behind the scenes, has asserted that Rovers are making changes for the better - even if it's taking time.

He also believes they will be at the forefront of a big shift in power in the underage scene which might unsettle the traditional powers in that area.

"We probably get some stick for that outside the club, investing in youth and everything but it's a no-brainer for us to be fair," said Robinson. "A lot of nonsense gets talked outside the club.

"Nothing has changed in terms of our goals for the first team. We still want to be winning leagues, we still want to be the biggest club in Ireland but why can't we have a good schoolboy system?

"It's exciting for us to see but we'll have to wait and see the results as well, it's not going to be instant. What we are doing there and building a training facility is everything we didn't have when I was here as a player.

"When I first played for the club we trained by the side of the road down in Spawell under floodlights off the street basically. And that's wrong. We're building. I think everyone needs to be patient in terms of the whole project but inside we're happy enough."

Robinson points to the fact that Rovers' U-12 side will contest an All-Ireland final in a few weeks as a sign of progress, adding that they are training four to five nights a week and getting a proper grounding that is a world away from what was available to his age group in his youth.

Significantly enough, their opponents are St Kevin's Boys, who are unhappy they were excluded from participating in Ruud Dokter's new U-15 and U-17 national leagues with an U-13 version to follow.

Dokter wants the likes of Kevin's to partner with League of Ireland sides but there remains a disconnect.

St Kevin's continue to prepare players for export to England - and claim that LOI clubs lack the know-how to take control of underage development - and have defended the fact that four recent products chose Stevenage as their next move, arguing that the League Two side have a better set-up than what's available at home. Rovers would take a different view.

"I don't think anybody likes change," continues Robinson. "Here, it can be territorial. I'd like to think what's happening with the FAI and Ruud Dokter is going to lead to us having a better international team in a few years. That needs to be the end goal with people coming together.

"We have to feed the hand that feeds us too. The League of Ireland clubs need to be fair with compensation. If a player goes on to be sold, then everyone should benefit including a feeder club.

Read more: 'If he was at Stevenage he'd go for £200-300k' - LOI Weekly debate Sean Maguire's transfer value

"St Kevin's have been unbelievable the last few years, I was at their (international underage) tournament recently and it has a place for sure. But there's less kids going to England now so where do they go? How do they fulfil their dreams? It has to be through the FAI's plan.

"Schoolboy football is changing in my opinion, there are strong clubs there right now but I don't think that in five years' time, they will be the strongest clubs in schoolboy football.

"You see people leaving Ireland to go to strange clubs in England for little money - it's wrong. I wouldn't send my son on an apprentice electrician course over in the UK. I'd have them do it here. So what we're doing is right, but we're at the start of it so it's easy to throw stones and say it's not going to work. In five years' time, we can look back and say that was a good move."

Bradley is on the same page for his remit.

"We are creating a whole new team and squad and that takes time," he said. "Just because it's Rovers, people think it happens overnight but it doesn't. Cork are flying now but it took them four years to get to that point."

Irish Independent

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