April 23, 2008

Is Ireland Utd about to go the way of Nottingham Forest?

Posted in Celtic Tiger · 35 comments ·
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In the past few days, football and economics have dominated the front and back pages of our newspapers. On the economic front, the talk has been about just how bad things might become in terms of the housing market, credit crunch and outsourcing.

In contrast, the football talk after last night’s game and ahead of the Man U versus Barcelona clash tonight is just how good the football is becoming in terms of skill, players and tempo.

In a highly competitive world, economies and football teams can display quite a few similarities. In the past, economies had what might have been described as competitive advantages, which were quasi-permanent. In an age of hard power where coal and steel mattered, countries lucky enough to have coal deposits under the ground had a natural competitive advantage.

These days, the world is lighter. Economic advantages exist where brain power and creativity are rewarded and in countries which can attract not just the best capital but the best labour. Therefore, although resources matter, the main competitive advantages are fluid and, for a successful economy, can be lost as other countries figure out a country’s economic model and replicate it.

When we hear of “Irish” jobs going to India for lower wages, we are seeing the fruits of global competition. Rather than having a permanent advantage, successful countries have something quite different — they have temporary monopolies.

Think about companies: the same “rule of transience” applies. There is nothing going on at Bank of Ireland that is not going on in Allied Irish Banks nor is there anything happening at Ryanair that can’t be replicated by Aer Lingus.

If Bank of Ireland comes up with a great product, it will be customised and copied by its major competitor. Ryanair led the low-fares game; now Aer Lingus is trying the same thing. The same holds for talented staff. If a company fosters talent, the next company that wants such talent will try to buy the people by offering better terms.

Nothing is permanent; ideas, systems, people and capital can be bought, copied, poached or accessed. The mistake for any company or country is to consider a few good years to be a permanent change in the commercial landscape.

In football, you are only as good as your last game and the successful teams who sit on their laurels get beaten. As we in Ireland now face a series of significant economic challenges, it might be instructive to look at the history of football clubs that shone brightly, punched way above their weight and then came crashing back to earth due to a combination of complacency, flat-footedness, bad management and bad luck.

As you look forward to the next Champions League drama, consider the history of a club that won back-to-back European Cups — Nottingham Forest. In 1979, the year the Pope came to Ireland, an unfashionable side, led by the charismatic and surly Brian Clough, came from nowhere to win the most coveted prize in club football. The idiosyncratic Clough and his team destroyed opponents with Scots Archie Gemmill and John Robertson and the unlikely up-front partnership of Gary Birtles and Tony Woodcock.

The following year, the club did it again. Belfast’s Martin O’Neill drove the team this time. For the second season, John McGovern lifted the cup for Forest. The press believed Clough had found a permanent system that was unbeatable. The era of Forest was upon us. They had after all won the League in 1978, as well as the Charity Shield and the League Cup. In 1979, they won the European Cup, finished second in the League and also recorded the longest ever unbeaten run of 42 league matches.

But what happened? After 1980, Forest went into decline. They never consolidated their position at the top of Premiership football. Clough seemed to lose it a bit. Although he was still mercurial and had a brilliant eye for players — for example, he signed Roy Keane as a teenager from Cobh and put him straight into the side — other managers and tacticians eclipsed Clough. The team lost its best players and went into reverse.

Today, while three English teams they dismissed in their pomp, Chelsea, Man U and Liverpool, are still in contention for the Champions League, Forest are fourth in the third division, sandwiched between the might of Southend and Doncaster. (Two places above my own team Leeds Utd — ach sin sceal eile!)

Is Ireland Inc in danger of becoming the Nottingham Forest of global economics? Did we not shine brightly, get the plaudits, and bask in the accolades of being the fastest-growing economy in the western world?

Yet like Forest we didn’t change with the times. Rather than investing in new players and coaching techniques, we put all our eggs into the property basket, allowed ourselves to get slovenly and instead of using the good times to invest in productivity, we imported people from the rest of the world to do the “jobs we wouldn’t”.

Out of every €1 we borrowed in 2007, 86 cent went into property. Speculative property, unlike other investments, creates no value added, no products, no exports, no patents, no skills and no basis for future national wealth.

Now we are faced with a period of hyper-competition without the soothing balm of easy credit, which served to mask our deteriorating competitiveness. The housing slump is just making a difficult global situation a bit more tricky. The current account — the most straightforward barometer of competitiveness — has gone badly into deficit. This implies that we are spending money we don’t have on stuff we don’t need, and it signals a fall in national productivity.

While we were asleep, the rest of the world has woken up and we are now faced with competitive challenges from the likes of India. Like Nottingham Forest, we have realised that we are only as good as our last performance and our recent performances have not been impressive.

So what are we to do? The key now is to change our game plan. In football terms this would mean signing up new players with new ideas without losing the spin of our old team. There is not much time left. We need to adopt new ideas, look around the world at other countries, see what they are doing better and improve on them.

The lesson of Nottingham Forest is clear: success is a fleeting concept. No team or country has a permanent advantage and when faced with the challenges of competition, radicalism and risk are rewarded.

We’ve been down in the third division before. We know how hard it is to get out of it. No one wants to be down there again.


  1. Ed

    David,
    I went to London in ’85 and brought a family back to ireland in ’99 in search of a better “lifestyle” and to see if I liked living/working here. I sold up in 2006 and moved lock stock to the middle east (on contract with an irish company). I now read with dismay whats happening to Ire inc and look aghast at the cost base in Ireland compared to the low labour cost gulf economies, not to mention the manufacturing thats on a not so slow boat to china. As proud as I am of things Irish, I have zero confidence in current leaders with regard to new ideas and things could slip to the third division in rapid order. I do hope notice is taken of your writings, but I fear that things always get really bad before they get addressed. We need some Munster rugby spirit generally across the nation, in that now were are successful everyone is out to beat us and therefore we must step up to that economic threat in our own park and stand shoulder to shoulder in foreign fields, knowing we are capable of doing it!

  2. Jonathan

    Nice analogy David. I’m thinking about what you said there :”radicalism and risk are rewarded”, and I’m picturing our current leadership in the form of Brian Cowen. Unless I’m very wrong about the guy , and FF in general we are all stuffed.

    At least the at the end of the property crash Ireland will look like a more attractive, cheaper place to move to from the perspective of foreign labour.

    Some change in legislation to allow the non-Irish spouses and children of the diaspora to live here permanently would be a good idea. It takes time to acquire skills and knowledge (the type we are wanting to attract) and usually by this time most people have also acquired a family.

    Rejigging the tax scheme to favor start ups and redirect investment away from property seems to be the easiest thing that could be done in the short term.

    The rest is structural: broadband, road, rail, education etc. The government have had a very poor record in this area so far. God help us……..

  3. Philip

    Was listening to George Lee this morning on “Morning Ireland”. Seems like the Malthusian Economics (supply constraint) is dominating for Oil and goodness knows what else as a result. Then there’s blue tongue… I believe your fundamental premise that the world is so open that only brains rule the day. That is only true if logistics and transport costs are near zero. If we do not sort out the energy issue fast (i mean in the next 2 years), we are back to physical isolationism and I do not think telecoms & IT has developed that far that we can rely on it alone.

    Assuming your right David, can you suggest who is the next N’Forest we should be adroitly following…I’d like to see more suggestions in that regards rather than saying much more about what a bunch of plonkers we have been squandering our wealth on the “P”.

  4. Dee McEvoy

    “Belfast’s Martin O’Neill”. When from? Next you will be saying Steve Staunton is from Dublin!

  5. Enda McLaughlin

    Martin O’Neill is from County Derry. He went to the same school as me

  6. The problem I see is that Ireland has waste most of the money coming all this years in higher wages and tax reductions. It was never enough to keep the people buying houses or any other thing. No foundations were put in place to build Ireland Inc. on it. Just keep a good cash flow and pay dividends. Now as the company did not invest those benefits in building a stronger company, other companies are eating all the market and Ireland Inc. is so big and has so many useless and non productive positions that it will be out of the market.

    Now there are no infrastructures, no health system, no surplus in the state budget. If all those things were not enough, now there is no money coming into the vault and there is no margin because there are more people everyday depending on the state.

    So… would you invest in a country with wages as in Luxemburg, health service as in Belarus, infrastructures as in Ivory coast, public transport as in Mongolia and with Dublin traffic jams’ being like the ones in Sao Paulo?. No offence to any people from Luxemburg, Belarus, Ivory Coast, Mongolia o Sao Paulo, I woudn’t be surprised if health service in belarus is better than in Ireland or public transport in Mongolia is better than in this country.

  7. David Mc Williams

    Enda/Dee, Sorry about the O Neill comment. I was told he went to St Malachis in Belfast. My mistake. best David

  8. The-Original-Ed

    The-Original-Ed

    Just back from a factory tour in China and all I can say is we’ve been caught napping. They have problems with energy sources, but they’re working on it day and night. The communications structures – road, rail and telecommunications are ahead of economic development – very impressive. As for Hong Kong, well what can you say – their infrastructure is excellent – the integrated ticketing using their octopus rfid system is so convenient and efficient and makes it a real joy to travel about the city. It’s depressing to come back to this country that is first world in name and third world in practices. I don’t see much happening for us in the coming years – we acted the good time charley for far too long and now there’s nothing to fall back on.
    I hear that Mr. Cowen is trying to get the public to become all dewy-eyed about the heroes of the past – a sure sign that he has nothing to offer other than some stupid sentimental distractions from the seriousness of our current plight.

  9. Jan

    Dave,
    Your article is interesting. It is something that has been obvious for years. Where is the investment by governement in high technology? Where is the investment in science in schools? I studied a degree in Engineering and the school I attended didnt even have facilities to conduct the classical Physics experiments(such as a pendulum swinging!)! Where is the development of green energy that we have in abundance. What about water? Are we exporting water to countries that suffer drought? What about fishing technology? What about using our heads for once?

    The Swedes found themselves in a high wage economy. What did they do? Cross their fingers and hope for the best like Ireland? No. They used their heads. One example is the bus system in Stockholm. It is 25% run by gas produced by recycled sewerage. It is a technology developed by the likes of Volvo and Saab with government help. The result is a Swedish technology, designed by themselves, keeping the country clean, employing Swedes and selling the technology to other countries!! Its a win-win for them! And its not rocket science! Sweden’s population is only double ours and they have very few natural resources yet they use their heads for the common good. They could have gone and built more and more flats considering the amount of land they have. But what would that have achieved? Instead they thought of the future.

    Unfortunately the mentality of the “cute hoor” still exists here and looks like its there to stay. Until there is significant investment in small companies and entrepeneurs, we can keep crossing the fingers. By increasing the number of civil servants by so much over recent years and taxing small business and Joe Soap to pay for it, it is clear that “food today, hunger tomorrow” is the future.

  10. JJ Tatten

    Many of these posts – particularly Ed, Jan and The-Original-Ed – are absolutely spot-on. The upper echelons of Irish society and her political class are simply not up to the job – because they never had to be. They were sh**ting in high cotton long before the ‘Tiger’; shored up their position during the boom and are now impervious and indifferent to the precarious position of the average Irish citizen. As for the Cute Hoor, well he’ll simply slink Peter Lorre-like back into the shadows salivating at the prospect of picking over the Celtic Tiger carcass post-recession. So what you’re left with is the regular, hard-working average Joe who’s hocked up to his/her eyeballs in debt and tragically relying on Brian Cowen to steer them through the storm. Heaven help them -the very thought of that man on the international stage makes me cringe with embarassment.

  11. Philip

    Was looking at the job pages…100K/yr jobs for Health Info and Quality Authority, more big jobs in the Commission for Energy regulation…and the list goes on. Hardly anything in doing revenue generation. Precious little in infrastructure as well. Members of IBEC are not hiring as much these days. Do not get me wrong…regulation and quality management etc are very necessary – but I cannot help feeling that the penny has not quite dropped on the public expenditure malaise. We need more accountability – not more reports or metrics. Unless asses get fired, little happens.

    It pains me to read the previous articles on this page which highlight the hollowness of this economy and indeed its social character. What pains me more is the way in which I see a tendency to label as whingers anyone who even vaguely alludes to anything being wrong…have another pint and watch the match will yez…all this will pass over and it’ll be like the ould times again. I think this attitude all harps back to our past – essentially believers in magic using Catholicism as a means of its modern expression. We are not believers in our own ability to make things happen. Instead we place our bets on Luck, Magic, Property, Gov Jobs i.e. all the things that yield something for nothing. When you are reared to believe in this – you’ll find it difficult to believe you specifically have anything to do with your own fortune. Just wish for it boy!

    We fell on good times when our cost, geo and educational profile worked out for us. It’s time to forget the magic and start some wholesale and public firings – which to my mind might sort out the social contract with the public. About time also we saw the serious side to our society rather than the pretence of a cushy meaninglessly winking leprauchaun.

  12. Johnny Dunne

    Yes, David we should be ‘signing up new players with new ideas’, but unfortunately as Philip highlighted very well we are hiring for non income generating state sponsored jobs while many innovative companies set up in recent years are going into receivership due to the currrent climate (spotted a few more in the paper’s this week). Will these entrepreneurs go again or take the ‘safe’ public sector job ?

  13. AndrewGMooney

    Leeds Utd!

    DMcW: I too was a fan of the venerable Norman Hunter and cohorts in the Theatre of Blood: Before football was ruined by tiresome considerations of health and safety. (irony alert: Leeds Utd were pretty scary, and no sensible person would tolerate such neanderthal behaviour to be allowed again….now we’ve all got seated terraces and £8 hamburgers ..etc)

    But, you’re forgetting Brian’s journey into the abyss: Look what happened to Brian on his brief 44 Day sojourn as ‘manager’ of Leeds after Don Revie?

    It shows that ‘ a winning team’ is a combination of locally grown and imported talent, which has to gel as a ‘culture’ as well as on a balance sheet. Doesn’t matter if it’s a company, country or soccer club. Or does it?

    Here’s a great review of a book about those 44 Days, the ‘money quote’ being:

    “Leeds were the great intimidators and Clough’s first meeting with the players – “a gang of apes after a fuck” – is a fine paranoid scene of territorial confrontation.”

    Could Ireland import a world-class manager to run the country? You can have Gordon Brown if you like…..or David Cameron…….sorry, but Brian’s at rest now. God bless him.

    http://books.guardian.co.uk/reviews/sportandleisure/0,,1853540,00.html

  14. Jim Bulger

    Here on this forums There seems to be a lot of complaining and whinging about Ireland and its lack of this and lack of that .Anybody remember that just 86 years ago we got rid of 800 years under the Brits and then for nearly 40 years after we were kept in economic recession by DeValera .
    We have been playing catchup to countries ( In Europe) who have been at this game for many more years than us ?
    We are constantly been compared to the likes of these countries . Fine there are problems which have to be sorted out but it is YOU the readers of this forum that can make the difference
    “Ah sure we are only a small little place what can we do ?”
    is a belief that unfortunately still abounds
    It is only when we get rid of this belief and get up of our arses and do something ourselves will change come about
    We cannot rely on the f… politicans to do it or the multinationals
    The foreigners won’t do it , the Eurocrats definitely do not want to do it , they want us to toe in line
    We are the only poeple that can help ourselves so I think its high time we did it .

  15. Jan

    Jim Bulger,
    I suspect that you will not find too many on here who are relying on other people to sort out their economic well-being. I suspect that youre directing your fire at the wrong people. The articles on here are very well written and I cannot find fault with most of them.

    Philip’s point about magic is very true. Waiting for stuff to happen is the way of this country. Blame the govt and sit around waiting. Meanwhile the govt blames someone else. Bush announces a $150bn fund and they slash interest rates in half. What do we do? Batten down the hatches, cross the fingers and hope for the best. Not good enough. ANd the depressing part is that it appears that we have learned nothing.

  16. coldblow

    The innocent ambience of my local football club is but a distant memory now (“Dunphy, you’re ******* useless! **** off you ******* Irish ****!”) but surely a better analogy here would be with the League of Ireland? How can the likes of St Pats command respect on local stage, to say nothing of the international one?

    I agree that we won’t get the economy sorted out unless there’s also a radical change in attitudes across the board. about who we are and what we stand for. In other words, as a community to take responsibility.

    Does this quote from V.S. Naipaul remind you of anywhere familiar?

    “The enemy is the past, of slavery and colonial neglect and a society uneducated from top to bottom; the enemy is the smallness of the islands and the absence of resources. Opportunism or borrowed jargon may define phantom enemies… But at the end the problems will be the same, of dignity and identity.

    “In the United States Black Power may have its victories. The small islands of the Caribbean will remain islands, impoverished and unskilled, ringed as now by a cordon sanitaire, their people not needed anywhere. They may get less innocent or less corrupt politicians; they will not get less helpless ones. The island blacks will continue to be dependent on the books, films and goods of others; in this important way they will continue to be the half-made societies of a dependent people, the Third World’s third world. They will forever consume; they will never create. They are without material resources; they will never develop the higher skills. Identity depends in the end on achievement; and achievement here cannot but be small. Again and again the protest leader will appear and the millennium will seem about to come.”

    He was talking here (an essay about Michael X written in the early 70s) about his native Trinidad, which also happened to have undergone an oil boom apparently. There’s no real comparison with us here of course but it still makes for uncomfortable reading.

    If we can’t do it ourselves maybe the EU will bail us out – I always had more than a suspicion that, unlike other countries who acted out of idealism and cold calculation (in varying proportions), we signed up so that someone else could make our decisions for us.

    Or maybe the Yanks will save us, like Hicks and Gillette?

  17. kieran daly

    Would Leeds utd be a more relevant comparison?.Overpaid players/public sector staff who have bad results/low productivity and a management unwilling to engage in reform until it is 2 late.

  18. MK

    Hi David,

    Yes, Ireland has many problems. I agree with a lot of what has been sid here in the comments.

    > the very thought of that man (Brian Cowen) on the international stage makes me cringe with embarassment

    Lets not forget that Bertie Ahern wasnt exactly much of a difference if you ask me.

    > we fell on good times

    Very true.

    > The upper echelons of Irish society and her political class are simply not up to the job – because they never had to be. They were sitting in cotton long before the ‘Tiger’, shored up their position during the boom and are now impervious and indifferent to the precarious position of the average Irish citizen.

    agreed.

    This county had problems before the ‘boom’, had problems during the ‘boom’ and will have problems after it. There has been no fundamental change at all. ‘Cute Hoorism’ which costs all of us is rife, it has become professionalised if anything, and the inefficient public sector has become a multi-headed monster that expanded rather than being dealt with.

    What a mess ….

    MK

  19. Malcolm McClure

    Managing ‘prima donnas’ is the most difficult job in the world, whether they perform in an opera house, a football team or a footsie 100 company. We know that these PDs can deliver exceptional performances if we get it right. Get it wrong and the whole enterprise descends into mediocrity. Look at what happened to Tierry Henry in Barca. Now he wants back to Arsenal where Wenger has the necessary management skills. Roy Keane lacks these skills, which is why Sunderland are languishing.
    In Ireland the EC helped us ‘prime the pump’. Now its up to ourselves to stand on our own feet. We have the infrastructure, the resources, the talent and the contacts to make Ireland a continuing success. To extend David’s ideas, we need to attract managers who have a proven track record of being able to handle the ego of PDs.
    Top ‘people managers’ (not MBA’s) are the new Aristocracy.

  20. Observer

    It certainly looks that Way, forget emergency loans that is for sure as what Joeseph Siglitz Said recently on CNN Yesterday. The Great Depression is back with larger bite.

    Oh David, I forgot to ask,,,,,,,, How is the Campaign for the Irish Diaspora Ancestral Return going?

    Good to see that there are groups nows sprouting up….. even one lead by a Protestant Minister in the States!

    Thats very positive

  21. Marty Mac

    Still haven’t forgiven Roy. You might not have noticed but he has secured safety in the premiership today. I think Wenger was ‘cute’ enough to describe Keane as having a huge footballing brain (admittedly in terms of his playing ability) – Securing a place in the premiership in his first season, a meteoric transformation from when he took over last year when they were ‘languishing’.

    On a more positive note, with all these Notts forest analogies, why not trace this Irishman’s footsteps from funnily enough his first steps at Forest to where he is now.

    Swimming against the tide, knowing when the game is up, planning the next move, keeping your opponents guessing. Watch how he toys with the media — He has a way to go but he knows a thing or to about transformation.

    Anyone would be forgiven for thinking that he was a monster of a man, setting fear in the minds of his opponents, battles won before entering the field of play. He was 80 kg and by his own admission in possession of average talent.

    Sunderland, Ireland, unfashionable North-East for WAGs, an outpost of Global/Euroland, comparisons can be made.

    Lets see how Keane does in comparison to Brain Cowen

    On this Diaspora gig I think there is something in harnessing past generations that have left these shores adopting a Jewish approach to cementing relations, however I can’t help feeling this is playing safe, prevention rather than cure.

    I believe the opinion to restore Ireland’s old brand image of 40 shades of green, has huge potential?

    I wonder what RK would do? It’s going to take a very brave midfield general, leader of men to turn the tide and drive forward a green ‘economic’ agenda.

    Finally, what’s the big deal about a protestant minister setting up a group for the Irish Diaspora Ancestral Return?

  22. Matt McGrath

    Posted at the Irish Independent website in response to article:

    This was a poor article which improved at the end. The sub-editor should have shown McWilliams a lesson in efficiency and productivity by slashing the self-indulgent first two-thirds of the article. All that detail about football was wasteful filler and writer’s vanity. Such meat as there was came only at the end.

    Football: 66 percent of article, 742 words.
    Economy: 34 percent of article, 380 words. [Actual figures.]

    Ironically, given the theme, the writer’s and reader’s energies were exploited wastefully. McWilliams lectures on the need to improve productivity while spending his own resources (words) like a nouvelle football wife in the process.

  23. GOM

    We do tend to get back to similar arguments/discussions, at least in commentary on DMcW’s recent articles. In reading the posts on this one I can’t help but think that the fundamental issue we must be more comfortable with than many other nations, because of our size, our location, our cultural profile, e.g., anti-authoritarian streak(probably has something to do with why we pay less INCOME tax than anywhere else in Europe!), and now our new found “wealth”, is acceptance of constant change.

    True, as pointed out by Jim Bulger, we were playing catchup and attempting to converge with the economic prowess of Germany, but that “gap” has closed now somewhat so we need to “change” our focus to what it means to be a richer nation.

    I am a big fan of V.S. Naipaul too, coldblow, and think that his book “The Enigma of Arrival” is an excellent parallel here – we probably will never arrive, and will always have to strive if we are to remain successful. If “success is a fleeting concept” then ANYthing that achieves getting us off our arses to help ourselves, and being educated that taking a risk is not a bad thing (provided you are not kicked in the head when you fail and want to get back up again), is good. Roll on the days when truly we are in a world where the “job for life” is a thing of the past….it makes us lazy and the more public service permanent jobs we give the further backwards and against the concept of addressing success we go.

    Matt – what’s the point about the indpendent’s view of the article? You didn’t say whether you agreed or not. Personally, I think its ironic that the indo, is criticising this given the appauling standard of journalism in that paper in general. I agree that DMcW’s articles take a bit of liberty but he has been consistent with his point of view and seems to care – unlike many at the indo who have “jobs for life”. I could go so far as to say that the person who wrote the critique did not have the intellect to understand the context/concepts of the article so instead decided to give it a techno-journalistic review rather than focus on the theme – but that would be cruel.

  24. Rob

    Not sure about the tax bit in the last comment. Perhaps income tax may be low relative to other countries but we pay tax everywhere, petrol, food, drink, services. In fact when all this ‘tax’ is taken into account we may be one of the most taxed countries in the world.

    Roy Keane is doing an unbelievable job. Seriously anyone who can keep sunderland ahead of a club like fulham, with limited cash and players is doing a marvellous job. Languishing mid-table in the premiership is a pretty good place to be……

  25. Brian

    Malcolm and Rob, always enjoy your comments. I did not start the Keano debate but Malcolm…….. as regards him lacking management skills resulting in Sunderlands lower table finish I ll have to disagree. Success in the English premiership is like all business depends on a number of factors (money chairman sructures fans training facilities etc).

    First of all Keane spent 40 Million last year on players so his cash, as Rob suggested, was not limited. In fact he is promised from Mr Quinn more this Summer (possibly 60 million). Apologies if I am coming across a bit smart on this point. I don’t mean to. I just happen to know off hand. The problem for Sunderland in comparison to Fulham is its location. WAGS and many foreign players do not want to go there unlike cities like London that are more attractive.

    So his 40 million was spent on overpriced ‘home based’ players who are/were not good enough to play in the more ‘fashionable’/established clubs. Attracting foreign players with no concept of English culture, is easier to clubs based in cities like London and/or to more established clubs with a tradition and reputation abroad. Sunderland does not have this yet but the hope is that players will be attracted to it next year now that they survived.

    Harry Redknapp has done just this turning Portsmouth FC from being an ‘unknown’ club to a genuine force in the English premiership (and in the final of the FA Cup this year) that can now attract true overseas talent. A large proportion of their squad is from the talented African nations.

    So all in all Keane and Quinn and co. have done a management good job with the players he could attract ensuring survival in their first season. So I agree Rob on this point but for different reasons. He had cash but Sunderlands location and reputation was the problem. I think he has got great management qualities/potential. Only time will tell. I d back him as he seems to treat it with a balance of science and reason as opposed to emotion and waffle.

    The rebuild this Summer and next season placing will be crucial for Sunderland. There are 4 ‘leagues’ within the premiership that most in football will agree to; Survival, Mid Table, UEFA League, and the Top 4. Keane has was won survival and now next season is to win the mid table battle. I am aware that some teams have got promoted and got into Europe in their first season (Ipswich Portsmouth etc) BUT it is not sustainable long term as their squads will not be able to cope with the extra games. In their first season after promotion to the premiership Ipswich qualified for Europe (UEFA cup). The next season whilst enjoying the European adventure they got relegated back to the First Division and all their good players left.

    Ireland’s economy take note!

    For the record survival in the premiersip = £40 million+ in revenue (from gate receipts, Sky and the Premier League).

    PS I did not start the Keano debate but if ‘unattractive’ Sunderland can/could become a force in English why can’t the Irish economy even in a downturn!? And if they do, remember the people who run it are members of the Irish ‘Diaspora’. Lets wait and see. Could all go pear shaped next year

  26. Malcolm McClure

    During his career Roy Keane got 95 Yellow cards and 13 Red cards, including one for elbowing Sunderland player Jason McAteer in the head that cost him a fine of £150,000.
    People with a killer instinct have a function in life but it’s not as a role model for talented youngsters, or as a manager of a football team. Fergie’s and Wenger’s success is based on fair play, an essential ingredient in anyone who wants to be a long-term success as a manager of top people. Keano had some success when he first went to Sunderland, but not a lot recently.
    Returning to economics from this analogy, perhaps the banks would do well to remember that financial shenanigans are no substitute for probity in the long term.

  27. Rob

    I think you are being a bit harsh on Keano. I am always fairly impartial or try to be in these matters. For instance I’m still not overtly impressed with Keano in the whole Saipan saga. But lets not start that one!

    Seriously though as a player he was a battler. He was a tough midfielder and wasn’t afraid to stand his ground, a lot of incidents like that will attract yellow cards etc. I don’t think he was a dirty player either, tough, yes.

    As a manager he has had little experience and yet has managed survival in the premiership, a rock upon which many far more experienced managers have perished. In addition as Brian pointed out, Sunderland, not exactly Paris of the North, or come to think of it, Paris of anywhere!

    If you read any of the in-depth interviews he has given, he comes across as an extremely thoughtful guy who now that he is out of the game as a player has shown a different side to his character. For me he typifies some of the best qualities that we should be promoting in this country. He is a doer, a trier and makes the best of what he has. He has come from one of the poorest areas of Cork with no advantages and yet has risen to great heights already.

    If you read any of his stuff he abhors the spoilt mentality of some of the younger generation of footballers and has said that he wants to instill character and integrity in his charges. To compare him unflatteringly to wenger and fergie is a bit premature. Give him the time and the same resources as either and see how he does! If Ireland Inc had Keano’s drive, work-ethic etc. we would be better off, no question. Compare him to the present bunch of wafflers we have in govt..! no contest!

  28. GOM

    Amen to the last paragraph…he also strikes me as someone who will take responsibility if he makes a mistake…a leadership quality I admire probably more than just being a “good manager”. If other sports (and sports organisations) leaders took responsibility last year we would have been moving on from mediocre performances sooner instead of languishing and wasting much more time in choosing the right leaders.

    Roy does need to finesse the PR as part of his learning curve, his comments recently re Liam Brady being no more than a translator for Trappatoni were a bit immature…not sure if anyone heard the Brady interview on the day he was announced. He was asked what he thought of Roy’s comments…response: “I was a bit surprised (deliberate pause)……it took so long!” Great timing.

    Roy’s are the type of values we will need to get going again absolutely. We’ll always have wafflers in govt. that’s the nature of politics…we are responsible for holding them more accountable though.

  29. Malcolm McClure

    Rob: I would never dispute that Roy is a true Irish hero, cut in the mould of the auld Fianna. Even McAteer agrees that he was a great footballer. And Wenger assents that he has an outstanding football brain. I take your assurance that he abhors the antics of the younger generation and would like to instil stern character. No dismal economist would approve the Spice Boy antics of Collymore, Fowler or Jamie Redknapp.
    But the challenge when managing outstanding talent is keeping their antics in perspective. Make sure they play by the rules and don’t break the law. Focus on their performance on the field. Don’t be a wet blanket and kid them along that they are even better than they think they are, but ask to see the proof in the next game.
    I just can’t see Roy generating real affection as opposed to mere respect. Look to Martin O’Neill or Harry Redknapp if you want a role model for him.

  30. Matt McGrath

    Posted at the Irish Independent website in response to this article:

    This was a poor article which improved at the end. The sub-editor should have shown McWilliams a lesson in efficiency and productivity by slashing the self-indulgent first two-thirds of the article. All that detail about football was wasteful filler and writer’s vanity. Such meat as there was came only at the end.

    Football: 66 percent of article, 742 words.
    Economy: 34 percent of article, 380 words. [Actual figures.]

    Ironically, given the theme, the writer’s and reader’s energies were exploited wastefully. McWilliams lectures on the need to improve productivity while spending his own resources (words) like a nouvelle football wife in the process.

  31. Brian

    In response to above Independent Post, Davids articles are written, not just for economists, but for ‘non economists’ like myself; ie people who would rather get on with things and blindly follow our leaders on economic issues. This ‘blind’ following is not healthy and he wants to point out the dangers of the overall economic direction to everybody.

    To do this he has to make colourful analogies and if it means discussing football for 66% of this article well than so be it. Apologies about the sychophanticism but David should keep writing with to make economics ‘accessible’. If most of his articles were based largely on ‘actual figures’ who on earth would read them in the independent??!! People would get bored and stop reading him. Then he would lose his job.

    If you want to get ’100% economy’ articles well then study it or read economic magazines!

  32. Observer

    “Finally, what’s the big deal about a protestant minister setting up a group for the Irish Diaspora Ancestral Return?”

    Marty, I think that is positive because it will give those Bigotted Anti-Catholic Loyalist Rodents in the North that they are not superior to Catholics and that even though we would be a Predominently Catholic Country…. The Protestant Irish Minority would be an equal Part of our identity. It would be the Ireland that the United Irishmen Wanted….. Free of Sectarianism

    Also if they decided to cause problems again, ourselves and our Good Non-Papal Christian Friends would help us put them and any Catholic Bigots in their place.

    That’s how I’d interpret it

  33. Jonas

    Ireland has much in common with Lithuania in this perspective. Thing get so well here in the past 5-10 years, that many fell asleep on top of this economic boom. Bubble is bursting.

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