AMID THE LATEST spate of Abbotstown cost-cutting, Liam Brady has called on FAI bosses to find a man who can inspire a rethink of the country’s footballing culture from schoolboy level up.
High performance director Wim Koevermans, technical director Packie Bonner and football support services manager Eoin Hand have all left the Association as part of an effort to merge roles and drive down the wage bill.
At this month’s AGM, chief executive John Delaney said that the process of finding a replacement for Koevermans was ongoing following his departure to take over as coach of the Indian national team.
The Dutchman’s successor will focus on coach education and the emerging talent programme, Delaney said, and Brady feels that Ireland’s schoolboy system should be the first target for an overhaul.
“I think the most important person in the development of the young players has to be someone who can convince all the amateur teams in Ireland, i.e. schoolboy teams, to play in a different way and to focus on different things,” Brady told TheScore.ie on Monday.
“I think the culture of football in this country is wrong and we need to change it, the way we actually play the game and the things we teach young players before they get moved on to England.
I think if you get away from a league table where you’re up the top and you’re down the bottom, it will go a long way to change the mindset of these managers who are picking big kids just so they get results.
When you’re playing at under-16 or under-15 or under-14, size matters. But it doesn’t matter in general, it doesn’t matter when you get to the big boys. I think Spain have proven that.
Any review which takes place following Ireland’s disappointing Euro 2012 campaign should focus on bringing this young talent through, Brady continued.
“Players like Robbie Keane and Damien Duff, they’re not on the horizon that I can see. A review in that sense would be beneficial and be welcome.
“I think in general, I find it a bit laughable that a team with a top manager and top pros who get to the Euros — ok, they didn’t perform — but we don’t need a Genesis review. The trip went well organisation-wise, there wasn’t the madness of Saipan.
“What needs to happen is [to look at] where are our good young players coming from and how can we make it a conveyor belt. That’s more productive.”
Asked if greater efforts could be made to retain Irish talent within the domestic system, Brady dismissed the suggestion as unrealistic.
But he conceded that the Airtricity League had been valuable for players like Irish international Keith Fahey. In 2009, Fahey moved from St Patrick’s Athletic to Birmingham City at the age of 25, putting an earlier unsuccessful spell as youngster in England behind him.
“Going to England at 15 or 16 is something that you can’t deny any kid. Why would you want to play in the League of Ireland if you can go to England? The rewards are much greater, the level of football is much greater.
“There are late developers. Keith came to England when he was a kid because I took him to England. I think the League of Ireland is an area where they can mature later, both physically and mentally.
A lot of kids come to England and can’t settle. It’s not so much that they’re not good enough but it might be that they don’t like living away from home so they’ll probably need to go to England later on when they’re more mature. I think the League of Ireland is excellent for that, for giving players another start, and Fahey would be a prime example of that.
Liam Brady was speaking at the launch of ESPN’s Premier League coverage for the 2012/2013 season. For more information, visit www.espn.ie.