With the reign of Giovanni Trapattoni at an end, Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane need to sort out the issues which dogged the previous regime
By Ryan Kelly
In appointing Martin O'Neill, with Roy Keane as his assistant manager, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) have made a statement: things are going to change.
After over five years under Trapattoni, two Irishmen now steer the fortunes of the senior team and they bring with them a freshness. Both European Cup-winners, O'Neill and Keane are vastly experienced individuals who are rightly revered for their achievements in the game.
Going forward, they must use their undoubted influence to address a number of key issues.
There was something decidedly unsavoury about Shane Long's dubious Tweet ahead of Ireland's dead-rubber World Cup qualifier against Kazakhstan.
The West Bromich Albion striker wrote "Cowboy" in apparent frustration at interim manager Noel King's decision to leave him out of the starting XI for the second game in succession. Typically, King played down the significance of the petulant outburst, but such conceit has the potential to become toxic.
While King was unfazed by the blatant attempt to undermine his authority as a coach, O'Neill and Keane must not let the juvenile complaints of players go unchecked.
|Discover the best XI
During the Trapattoni era, supporters and the media were frequently left dumbfounded by the Italian's team selections. Too often were players, such as strikers Simon Cox and Jonathan Walters, played out of position on the wing, at the expense of natural wingers.
Noel King appeared to continue this trend during his two-game tenure, which saw Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes deployed in unfamiliar wide positions.
O'Neill and Keane bring fresh eyes to the set-up and dilemmas will confront them in all areas of the pitch. The forthcoming friendly double-header will allow the pair to assess their options and gain an understanding of what players will form the best possible XI.
|Facilitate the ascension of the next generation
Robbie Brady, James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick each received their first senior caps under Giovanni Trapattoni after impressing at U21 level. Despite this, the ascension of the next generation has been stunted, with a number of veterans hanging on to their place in the squad on reputation more than anything.
It is important for O'Neill and Keane to view their job as being part of a long-term project and that involves identifying and promoting the next generation.
Ireland's new managerial team can make positive strides into the future by phasing out the 'old guard' and integrating some of the talented young players who are keen to grasp their chance.
|Strengthen links with the domestic league
"In Ireland there is no league."
Those were the infamous words of former Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni. The former Juventus manager's derisory assessment of the domestic league caused a stir, but his overall point - that the level of the game in Ireland was significantly lower than its European counterparts – rings true.
Nevertheless, FAI chief executive John Delaney remarked on Roy Keane's knowledge of the League of Ireland and hinted that the former Cobh Ramblers man would be attending games in the national league as well as running the rule over players in Britain.
No one is realistically demanding that domestically-based players merit a place in the squad ahead of the full-time professionals plying their trade in England, but the new era can certainly be one which helps to enhance the domestic game.
|Reward players' form
It is important that players know that their form will be rewarded. The previous regime rarely attended games and stuck with the players that knew the 'system' regardless of how well they were playing week in-week out with their clubs.
Although it allowed for a degree of consistency within the squad, this approach all but extinguished the competitive edge which drives players on to greater heights.
Players on the fringes of the squad were aware that breaking into the squad would be difficult, and in some cases imposssible, because Trapattoni tended to stick with players that he felt were familiar enough with what his philosophy was. The new regime represents a fresh start for all involved.