A few years ago, on Deadline Day of the winter transfer window, I wrote a piece headlined “Almost time to take down the tent”. Inference being that the concept and the time around it resemble a circus.
At the time, that manifested itself in the insane fees clubs were paying for players and the manner in which big named stars were hopping between rival clubs. Two examples being Dimitar Berbatov and Robin van Persie leaving Tottenham and Arsenal respectively to head to Old Trafford.
Times have changed. The window just closed was more about some clubs plugging holes, others with them still to be filled and another group seemingly wanting away from their current employers. Most surprising to this corner was to see Ainsley Maitland-Niles and Joe Willock and Skodran Mustafi leave Arsenal at a time Mikel Arteta is obviously overseeing a transitional period at the club.
Kabak’s Agent Should Be KnightedPAUL MERSON
Pointing out that Liverpool have not looked as good as they did last season is not only a statement of the obvious, it almost seems unfair as no team could honestly be expected to remain at the standard of excellence Jurgen Klopp’s team operated at during the 2019/’20 season.
Especially stripped of the sublime footballing talents and unteachabcle leaderdship qualities ingrained in undoubtedly the best central defender in Europe – arguably on the planet – at present, Virgil Van Dijk.
As if such a loss wouldn’t be a shuddering enough blow, over the weekend it emerged that Joel Matip – who would be a straight swap replacement for the talismatic Dutch man – was also ruled out for the remainder of the campaign left the current champions with a rearguard in serious need of bolstering.
Thus, a Klopp shop was almost inevitable. However, you’d have thought the lure of going to the current English champions and the opportunity to work with one of the world’s best coaches would/ve seen them able to lure the best stopping talent going. Instead, in keeping with a weird window which would up with more questions than answers, Ben Davies of Preston North End and Schalke 04’s Ozan Kabak. No, me neither. It probably says all that needs uttering to have Paul Merson’s observation that “Kabak’s agent should be knighted”. Being honest in view of the fact that there are at least rumours things are not all rosy with Mo Salah and Bobby Firminho hasn’t been anywhere near as productive as was the case previously, it was something of a surprise to see the German allow Takumi Minamino out on loan to Southampton. Meaning that, effectively, Divok Origi is the only cover he has up front.
Elsewhere, not that many Irish eyes will have been smiling after window had shut. Top level sport is a fickle arena in which to try to eek out a living. To employ a bit of horse racing parlance, you are only as good as your last winner. Get beat on a few fancied mounts and it doesn’t take long to vanish off the radar. Translate that into soccer speak and it says if you don’t take your breakthrough opportunity when it arises players can find themselves down the pecking order quicker than they can tie their boot laces.
Just ask Troy Parrott. It doesn’t seem all that long ago that Jose Mourinho was handing the former Belvedere FC youngster the match ball after he had made his first team debut against Burnley. Now, after a loan spell at Milwall which turned into a damp squid, he has flown into Ipswich Town in League One. It should not be seen as either a backward or sideways step for his career. Rather, the latest stage in his developmental journey as a footballer.
To that end, he need look no further than another graduate of Mick Earley’s Belvedere production line, Dunboyne’s Darragh Lenihan who, after being sent out on loan to Burton Albion by ‘parent’ club Blackburn Rovers, has now returned to and is Captain of the Ewood Park club. Following in the footprints of club legends such as Tim Flowers and Colin Hendry and Tim Sherwood and, eh, Alan Shearer.
Of course, Darragh went even further by becoming the first Meath man to be capped at senior level by the Republic Of Ireland. Mention of our national team at this juncture in seminal.
The boys in green are at the lowest ebb I can recall them being during my lifetime. They are devoid of quality players, short on leadership and bereft of credible direction from the dugout. The latter factor being totally on the doorstep of the FAI owing to their staggering ineptitude and incompetence.
No disrespect intended to League Of Ireland Football whatsoever, but, who in their right mind puts a journeyman coach from such a level in charge of the national team? You wouldn’t exactly see the likes of Lee Bowyer or Neil Warnock in the running for the England job, would you?
I’d be no fan of Mick McCarthy’s and will, until the day whatever is left of me is in an urn, think he was wrong about Saipan, but, the way the big Barnsley man was treated before and during his second stint in charge of the national team was a disgraceful shambles.
Though arguably not as big of a ramshackle effort as Stephen Kenny’s effort has been. When people of status within the game like Damien Duff and Alan Kelly step away it should say enough for anybody.
Having said all of that, the time when Kenny or whoever is in charge will have to put a squad together for something or other must be drawing near. With that in mind, it was surely indicative of where Irish players stand status wise when the two highest ranked players going by their club rankings are Jeff Hendrick with struggling Newcastle and John Egan and Enda Stevens at bottom side Sheffield United.
Temptation was to pinpoint Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty in the above section but the fact is that both are now only bit-part players with their respective employers. Indeed, Mourinho’s disdain for Doherty has been plain to see lately.
In a final and telling illustration of where Irish football is at least thought to be, after being a fairly high profile signing for them not all that long ago, Aston Villa let Conor Hourihane out on loan to Swansea while, maybe even more tellingly, Southampton released Shane Long on loan to Bournemouth at a time when they’ve as many fit players as Donald Trump has sane supporters.
All of which means, ironically, the time could be nigh for the likes of Lenihan, Hourihane and Parrott to step up to national service.