By Dermot Clarke
Anybody who has ever questioned the influential capabilities of a good coach need look no further than Joe Kinnear. Kinnear has held Wimbledon in the top flight since he took over in 1992. His astute movements in the transfer market have made him a popular man with chairman Sam Hamamm. Kinnear has secured large fees for the sale of mediocre players, while capturing some undiscovered talent for comparative pittances with his astute eye.
It was only when Kinnear suffered a minor heart attack a few weeks back that those connected with Wimbledon truly realized what the man’s presence and influence meant. The attack suffered before an away game with Sheffield Wednesday has had Kinnear in rehab ever since. Wimbledon, in gung-ho, let’s-do-it-for-Joe fashion, won the game, 2-1. Let’s do it without Joe is a little more difficult, it seems. Three defeats in a row followed the Wednesday game, even managing to lose to doomed Nottingham Forest, 3-1. The next game would be at home to Manchester United, it was time for the boss to intervene.
Kinnear saw it to be a fitting time to answer the get-well wishes he had received from his players. The message he returned was, "I’m getting better — but no thanks to you." It was enough to put the battle back into his team. They may not have beaten United, but the improved performance did get them a point in a 1-1 tie against the champions elect. Jason Euell’s early goal was canceled out by Beckham on the stroke of halftime and Neil Sullivan’s superb performance kept the second half scoreless.
Midfielder Robbie Earle said it would be convenient to blame the losses on Kinnear’s absence. But it would also be too much of a coincidence for the team’s worst spell of the season to have occurred while he was in hospital. Earle described his boss as being "like one of those teachers you had at school who everyone hated because he wouldn’t let you away with anything, then he leaves and you then realize how good he was." The animated Kinnear is sadly missed on football’s terraces. Get well soon, Joe.
Exciting Arsenal, etc.
Follow us on social media
Keep up to date with the latest news with The Irish Echo
I remember reading an article on Arsenal in which the reporter remarked, "Arsenal make watching paint dry an enjoyable spectacle." Since the arrival of Arsene Wenger, they have become more exciting. Upgraded, to say, like listening to a chess game on the radio. They failed to capitalize on the United hiccup when they drew 0-0 with Southampton at the Dell. Chelsea got right back in the hunt with a 1-0 win at Charlton, Roberto di Matteo providing the winner.
Robbie Fowler is in trouble again. Already facing disciplinary action for the Gr’me Le Saux incident, Fowler decided to answer the drug jibes he’d been receiving from Everton fans. After equalizing Dacourt’s 41 second goal, by scoring a penalty, Robbie got to his knees, pressed his nostril and ran his nose along the end line as if snorting cocaine. Fowler later apologized but will it be enough? Liverpool won the Derby 3-2.
The jittery Gers are at it again in Scotland. A 3-1 defeat at St. Johnstone means that the lead is now down to 6 points with one Old Firm game still to come. Who knows? Celtic beat Dundee 5-0 to put the pressure back on. Two more goals for that man Larsson in that one, his 36th and 37th of the campaign. Burley, Viduka and Blinker completed the rout.
The FAI Cup final throws up the unlikely pairing of Bray Wanderers and Finn Harps. Bray put their relegation worries aside for the time being with a 2-1 victory over Cup aristocrats Shelbourne. Meanwhile, Finn Harps put paid to Galway’s dream by the same score. Both these teams won on the last occasion that they contested the Cup final. John Ryan scored a hat trick for Bray nine years back when they beat the then Leinster Senior League side St. Francis 3-0. You have to go back 25 years for the Harps victory though, when Charlie Ferry and the great Brendan Bradley were the scorers in a 3-1 victory over St. Pat’s. Big Brendan got two that day. The final will be played at Tolka Park on May 9. The last time that venue was used, it was another unfancied side that took it, when UCD beat Shamrock Rovers after a replay in 1984.
Old Lady to Old Trafford
And finally the Old Lady comes to Old Trafford today. Juventus play
Manchester United in the first leg of the European Cup semi-final. It looked
they would be without Zinedine Zidane, the World player of the year, but he
has now been cleared to play. The knee injury he received against Olympiakos seem to have miraculously healed up. Carlo Ancelotti will probably play a 4-4-2 now, whereas the formation would most likely have been 4-5-1 had Zidane been unavailable. It could be a blessing in disguise for the home team. United must win at home to have any chance of reaching the final.
United are still in line for the treble, it would be a tremendous achievement should they pull it off. Lady Luck won’t accept any of the blame however, should they fail. In the European Cup Quarter final they were supposed to face the second best player in the World, all they saw of Ronaldo was a shadow the fully fit version in the second leg. Now they probably won’t be facing a fully fit Zidane. In the FA Cup they were drawn at home in every round, luck is definitely on their side.See the Shamrocks
If you happen to be looking for the perfect way to digest next Sunday’s roast, you could do worse than travel to Downing Stadium. Take the BQE to the Triboro Bridge, stay right for Randalls Island, go down the ramp and follow the stadium to the entrance. You won’t be disappointed. The Shamrocks are bidding to become the first Irish club to win the Cosmopolitan League title. On Sunday next they take on one of the teams sharing the top spot with them — New York Albanians. The first and second teams are at the top and both are in tremendous form at present. The games begin at 2 p.m. and 4:15. It will cost you a toll on the bridge on the way in, but I promise that by the time you exit you will have put it down as a bargain afternoon.