Lawnsdowne Road -“It’s Carsley or bust”

I’m going to get straight to the point: I want Lee Carsley as the next manager of the Republic of
Ireland. He’s a bright and contemporary coach who would be the perfect foil for our current crop of
youngsters. He is at the forefront of the modern game and he’s Irish. He’s also good, which is why he
is in demand.

At 49, Carsley is still considered a young coach but is also a student of the game. He has completely
reinvented himself having been heavily involved with Manchester City’s and the FA’s youth setups.
He is the future where Ireland is concerned and that’s why the FAI made him their number one
choice; it’s not rocket science.

Then we have the backups.
Chris Hughton, Neil Lennon, Anthony Barry and maybe Roy Keane.
Anthony Barry, currently assistant manager at Bayern Munich and Portugal would be someone I
wouldn’t mind. However, Bayern had to pay a seven-figure sum to release the 37-year-old from his
Chelsea contract. That’s a non-runner.

Roy Keane is just not going to happen either. It would be absolute box-office, but it would also be a
car crash. So, let’s just leave that alone…

Chris Hughton, 65, a trail blazer as a player with Ireland, has just crashed out of another job, this
time with Ghana who suffered a humiliating capitulation at this year’s AFCON. Let’s not forget that
he was relieved from his penultimate employment with Nottingham Forest, leaving the two-time
European Champions on the cusp of relegation to League One. They now sit with relative comfort in
the Premier League, save for a possible upcoming FFP points deduction.

Then we have Neil Lennon, 52. A good player in his own right with Leicester and Celtic, having his
own international career with Northern Ireland cut short due to death threats from Loyalist
Paramilitaries. He also had a decent first stint as Celtic manager, before becoming disillusioned with
Scottish football and leaving in May 2014. He then took over English Championship side Bolton and
quite frankly, stank the place out.

His managerial career continued at Hibernian soon after and got the Edinburgh club back into the
Scottish topflight, but subsequently left under a cloud in 2019. A tetchy and mixed return to Celtic
came to an end with the club languishing 18 points behind Rangers, handing the blue side of
Glasgow their first title in ten years. To be fair, he did win a treble the year before.
Lennon’s last job ended in October 2022 having been fired by Cypriot club Omonia after a poor
season in their domestic league. He has since thrown his hat into the ring for the Republic of Ireland
job in a very public fashion, hardly the actions of a manager in demand. He’s a decent coach, but
seems to carry baggage and that’s something the FAI really want to avoid.

I have nothing against Hughton or Lennon on a personal level, having met the former, he is simply a
gentleman. However, we must be honest, neither one is top of any club’s Wishlist, and they certainly
aren’t on the top of the FAI’s. So, let’s not go there.

On the other hand, Lee Carsley, has just won a European Championship with the English Under 21’s
and with panache. They won every game and didn’t concede a single goal. Of course, the calibre of
player he currently has at his disposal is of one we can only dream of. However, the Irish gig is still a
very good job with lots of potential.

Giving the reinvented Carsley his first senior foray into management (he has managed in the
Championship, albeit as a caretaker and before his current guise as a coach) is still a risk. But I think
it’s a good risk and his style and presence fits the FAI’s mantra perfectly. And let’s be honest, every
manager is a “risk” to a degree.

Reports have been mixed about Carsley accepting the job. On one hand, you had Irish outlets on
Thursday spouting that the 49-year-old was in the bag. Then, we hear on Friday morning from the
Daily Mail that he’s staying with the Three Lions, only for that to be disputed later that day by the
Irish Times.

We won’t know for certain until Tuesday, when Mark Canham reports to the FAI board with his
recommendation.

If the FAI fail to land Lee Carsley, it will be seen as a huge blow for the association. If we end up with
either Chris Hughton or Neil Lennon in charge, it will be a huge failure. Leaving the FAI with lots of
questions to be answer, especially that of Mark Canham.

The 41-year-old Technical Director has promised progression for Irish international football, surely
the optics of having Hughton or Lennon in charge will tear that mantra to shreds.

David

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