Sport Soccer

Monday 21 January 2019

The great debate: Is Stephen Ireland worth taking back?

Despite reservations about
the impact Stephen Ireland
may have on the dressing
room, our jury were almost
unanimous that Giovanni
Trapattoni should take
back the Man City midfielder
if he wants to return
Despite reservations about the impact Stephen Ireland may have on the dressing room, our jury were almost unanimous that Giovanni Trapattoni should take back the Man City midfielder if he wants to return

The latest Irish footballer from Cork with the ability to polarise opinions, Stephen Ireland’s continued exile from international duty has been one of the few disappointments of the Giovanni Trapattoni era, but reports have suggested that the two will sit down in the coming weeks to see if a resolution can be reached.

The Cobh native’s refusal to represent his country since his controversial departure in September of 2007 has angered many and there is a theory that his return could cause conflict.

Daniel McDonnell and Neil Ahern spoke to a jury of 12 individuals from various strands of the Irish football community and found that – despite all that has gone on before – there is close to a unanimous verdict that the 22-year-old should be welcomed back into the fold

Vincent Butler - Former Ireland U-16 manager

Firstly, I think he does want to play for Ireland. I managed Stephen when he was a young kid and I never had a problem with him. He missed a few games with injuries, but I remember one time that we had a game in Wales and he was injured, but came to watch us. Obviously, he's had some personal problems, and he can be quite shy, so people need to realise he may not have the social skills to deal with this kind of situation.

I think he just needs to give Stephen the assurances that everything will be fine. The kind of character that Stephen is, I just think he needs to meet up with him and do that. It's clear that Trapattoni wants him back anyway, he must find out what worries Stephen has and talk to him about it.

You can see why other players might be concerned about losing their place in the squad, but then you never know what's going to happen next year. There could be lads like Aaron Doran and Keith Treacy who break through who haven't played in qualifiers, but end up going to the World Cup finals. That sort of thing happens, I don't think the players can have too much objection if the player wants to come back.


Des Casey - Former president of the FAI

I just think he needs to prove to people that he's back, and back for the long haul. I think it's getting close to D-day for him now. I think people's patience will run out if he doesn't come back this time.

It's the right time, there's the summer and a friendly game in August, so I think he needs to declare himself available for that.

It's clear he would like to have him back, but I think that maybe he needs to put some sort of deadline on it, to say that unless he comes back for the next few games in the autumn then he's not welcome back after that. You can't have a situation where we qualify for the World Cup and he says he wants to come back then.

Well, I don't think so really, it's the manager's job to put out the best team possible and if he decides that he wants Stephen Ireland back and that it's the right thing for everyone, then they have to accept it. As I said, I think if he comes back and shows that he is committed, then he will be accepted.


Joe Gamble - Cork midfielder, Ireland international

I think he has to accept responsibility for what happened before. I definitely think he's more mature now, you can see it in his play on the pitch that he has grown up, so, hopefully, it can all be sorted out with a phonecall or a meeting. If he agrees to come back, all he can do is come to training and put in the effort.

I don't think he should beg him. I don't think he should be camped outside his house -- there's 20 other players in the squad, so you have to show respect to them as well. He shouldn't be on his hands on knees, but he should make the effort to convince him to come back, listen to what he has to say and talk it out.

I take what people like Stephen Hunt have been saying on board, I know that if you were a person who missed out on a World Cup you'd be angry, but I think the senior players have had a say anyway. Richard Dunne and Shay Given have tried to talk to him at Manchester City and they're probably the two most influential players. I think everyone will accept that you need the best team possible out on the pitch.


JOHN ANDERSON - Ex-Republic of Ireland and Newcastle

He needs to come out and say he wants back in, because we haven't seen that from him yet. I think he needs to come out and say that he's been stupid, that he was young and immature and that he made mistakes. If he does that, I think the senior players will be mature enough to accept that and welcome him back in. He has to make that kind of statement.

I think he's too long in the tooth to go chasing after him. He has asked him once, and he might ask him again, but I think after that he'll be prepared to draw a line under it if he says no. If he is seen to be begging, then the player might come back in thinking that he's got a hold over the manager, which shouldn't be the way.

I definitely think their opinions need to be taken on board. I know there would be a problem if we qualified and he decided to come back then, I certainly think that would be disruptive. It would be no harm to speak to the likes of Shay Given, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Kevin Kilbane to get their opinion, although I think, at the end of the day, it's down to the manager. For footballing reasons, I'd accept him back.


OLLIE CAHILL - Shamrock Rovers and PFAI Delegate Liaison Officer

If he's going to come back, then I think he needs to clear things up. Looking from outside, he doesn't seem to have been too positive about coming back in his interviews and from what Mark Hughes was saying as well, so I don't know what the situation is. I think after what happened before, if he comes back in, he'll need to make a statement admitting the mistakes he has made.

He doesn't seem to be begging him to come back, he just looks to be leaving the door open, which is the right thing to do. I think he needs to make sure that everyone in the squad will be comfortable with the decision, because if it's handled wrongly, then it could cause a little bit of a disruption.

I think their view is important, so the manager should probably sit down or speak to some of the players to gauge their opinion. I don't think it will really be a problem, these things tend to work themselves out. Roy Keane came back before when there might have been issues with a few people. I think the players will be able to realise that he can better the team, he could give us the extra edge to qualify.


JEFF KENNA - Former Ireland player/current club manager

He has to want to come back, from a managerial point of view. From a player's point of view, all he has to do is pick up the phone and say 'look I want to come back.' We can only presume he doesn't want to come back and he's the only one that can explain what his reasons are.

I think he's done everything he can. The only thing Trapattoni can do now is hope that there's encouragement from somebody, through (Ireland) himself or another player, Richard Dunne or Shay Given maybe. Stephen needs to make contact, however he sees fit -- if that's what he wants.

I think he should be allowed back in if it makes the squad stronger, whether the other players like it or not. I can understand players saying 'I've worked hard to get us where we are,' but that's football, that can happen at your club any stage of your career -- somebody comes along that's better and willing to play. That's just the business, and players are big enough to understand that that's how it goes.


JIM McLAUGHLIN - Former League of Ireland manager

I think he's done most of his talking on the field for Manchester City, I'd be disappointed about some Ireland players and coaches making comment, showing a lack of maturity on their part. If they're doing so then why can't he be allowed to have done so in the past.

It would be easy to get someone to just say 'look, I'm ready, I've looked at my past and maybe I've made a mistake, could you put a word for me'.

Maybe he should go to Mark Hughes; he would know the inside story and how these things work and how it effects players. They seem to get on very well and he should seek some advice there. If you have an asset that would benefit your team and everything I don't think it's very wise to ignore that.

No. That's why you pay managers, you don't have a communal thing or have a vote in a football team. It's not up to players, that's the manager's prerogative. If you are the manager you should understand what the players' feelings are anyway and, yes, some players may feel they're threatened, to defeat that argument the manager can just say he wants his best players at a World Cup and Stephen Ireland, or a player of his ability, why wouldn't you want that?


EOIN HAND - Former Ireland manager (1980-85)

I think his move should be a private contact with the manager, stating his reasons for leaving and coming back. I would like him to just say 'Would you please consider me?'

In any sport, you'd have to have a very good reason not play for your country. To further his club career, for me that is not a sufficient reason, if he can play for both. And if he felt there was some ridicule (which possibly lead to his departure), it could be a lot worse if he comes back under these circumstances.

I don't think he should do anything. I think it's an insult to anyone who has ever represented his country, for all the great players, Brady, Giles, Keane etc -- people who would die for their country. If Stephen does approach him then the manager can then say, 'OK, you will be considered for selection.' He should then look at it and ask will it damage the team.

That's not for me to say, that's up to the management. That's what he's paid to do. There is a lot of honour involved with a lot of the players. I personally can't understand why you would put your club in front of your country when you can do both.

jury's out

Gary Malone - Fan (You Boys in Green fanzine)

The next move has to come from the player, he has to make himself available for selection. There are certain principles and certain lines you can't cross over as a player. He's young and he's made stupid decisions and I'd be fairly angry as an Ireland fan over what's gone on, but if he made an apology and keeps it private, then I think he can be available for selection. If it was going to unsettle players that have so far done a great job, I'm not sure it's such a good thing.

I don't think you should have to beg a player to play for his country. Whatever went on before, he shouldn't be begged under any circumstances. He's by far our most in-form player from last season and he'd give us a lot as a team in terms of an attacking option in midfield. It should be 'the door's open for you if you decide you want to wear the green shirt.'

I think they should. I'm sure there'd be players that would have played in the campaign that wouldn't be happy. They should have a say, but not in public. I definitely agree with what Stephen Hunt said, but I'm not sure it should be said in public. Trap knows how to handle players, he's been in the game long enough. But, in general, I think they'd want him back because he is a quality player.


NOEL KING - Ireland women's manager

He's the player, he's the one player -- if he wants to play for Ireland, he knows what to do. If he doesn't, he doesn't. It's good debate, it's good for journalists to talk about it, but it's only up to certain people to make the decision, if he's adamant he doesn't want to play then he doesn't want to play. It's his choice.

I wouldn't allow him tell me what to do and I wouldn't try telling him what to do either. I've had experiences where I've tried to cajole a player to come back and sometimes its worked out to be a marvellous move, sometimes its worked out to be a bad move, but the manager has to decide that.

Trapattoni will be best placed to make that assessment.

The players can have their say, but the manager is the boss. At the end of the day, if the team doesn't qualify, it's his job that's in jeopardy, not Stephen Ireland's, not you or not me. Every manager will be able to gauge the mood of the dressing-room. In all walks of life problems arise, how they're dealt with may seem trivial or wrong, but what matters is what happens at the end of the campaign.Trap's decisions so far seem to have worked.

Jury's out

EOIN MacAODHA - Rathfarnham Punters FC, Amateur footballer

I think it's up to him completely to be honest, he needs to come out and say that he wants to come back and that he wants to come back for the right reasons. It has to be now, he has to play a friendly game before coming back into a qualifier. He has also to be sure that he's coming back properly for good rather than just playing a few games and heading off again.

I think it's 100pc up to the player to say he wants to come back after what's happened before, but he has to stress that now is the time -- he can't back for the World Cup if he hasn't played in any qualifiers. He needs him to come in for friendly matches because we don't know yet what his best position in the team would be.

Their input has to be taken on board. If there's any fear of mutiny or disharmony then the manager should be listening. I wouldn't think there would be a problem anyway, I think people want him back because he's such a good player -- but they should still be consulted about their thoughts.


Ian H arrington - Mayfield United Player

I think he should maybe publicly apologise to some people for , I wouldn't say lying about things, but not telling the whole truth. As far as im concerned, if he says that just once, that's enough. He has to apologise to other players too for what he has done, but if Ireland want to do well, the players will just have to get over that. If we want to get to the world cup and do well there, we need our best players.

If he talks to him and he asks him to come back and he does, great, but if he doesn't come back, I think we should leave it at that. No matter how good a player he is, you should never beg him to come back.

No. The manager's the man and the buck stops with him, if he's to ask all the players he'll always get a divided opinion. You probably have three or four players who don't like him, that's what it's like on every team. There are guys who like each other and other guys who don't like each other, but you get on for the benefit of the team. As far as I'm concerned it's his baby and maybe Tardelli and Brady's, it's up to the three boys as to what happens.


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