Nobody cared to mention his final days at Pride Park just a few months back were besmirched by a pretty serious controversy. The board of directors accused the Scot of turning up for work so drunk he was incapable of holding a training session. The charges were denied, but his position became untenable and he was soon on his way. Didn’t that deserve a mention in all the giddy coverage of his qualifications?
Being suddenly available and perceived by most in the British game as a half-decent manager was enough to catapult Burley into the reckoning. Was this the fault of journalists desperate for stories then or merely an illustration of where the Irish job is actually ranked? It was probably a bit of both. Much as we’d like to think otherwise, the task of taking over from Brian Kerr is not regarded as a plum job by many beyond the realm of unemployed British managers and former internationals. Neither the quality of the current squad, the tough seeding situation nor the pay packet on offer will turn heads at a time when PSV Eindhoven’s director of football Guus Hiddink has a part-time four-month contract with Australia worth twice Kerr’s annual salary.
It was hardly surprising then that by week’s end, Burley had denied interest, Martin O’Neill was forced to point out his personal circumstances were unchanged, Philippe Troussier took the guaranteed money from Morocco, and David O’Leary’s uneasy peace with the Villa Park fans continued to hold and, temporarily at least, to preclude him from the debate. Almost inevitably, Frank Stapleton took this opportunity to announce his own interest. Yippee! Between failing to impress at interview three years ago and today, Stapleton has added a spell coaching the Bolton strikers to his CV. Yet, his declaration was still treated as news and apparently taken seriously by some.
In the absence of an obvious frontrunner, a serious (some might call it orchestrated) campaign was launched to bolster the possibility of Steve Staunton taking over with a former teammate like Ray Houghton or Alan Kelly at his side. One of Ireland’s most loyal servants, Staunton’s putative appointment was explained in Friday’s Irish Independent. Apparently, it would be a case of the FAI hoping a rookie could work for them like it had for the Dutch and Marco Van Basten, the Germans and Rudi Voller, and the Welsh and Mark Hughes. A nice theory with very little basis in fact.
Of that trio, only Hughes was a true novice and people forget his appointment was a last-ditch desperate gamble by the FAW after Terry Venables and Roy Hodgson both baulked at the