Steve Staunton was unveiled as the new manager of the Irish international soccer team. In a surprise move, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) named Staunton to lead the new management team alongside veteran manager Bobby Robson. Staunton, 37. will be team manager and Robson, 72, who once guided the English national side to the semifinals of the World Cup. will be his adviser.
“I am the boss,” declared Dundalk-born Staunton at a press conference announcing his appointment. “I am the gaffer and whatever I say goes. The buck stops with me. To manage my country is the ultimate honor. It is clearly the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Staunton’s predecessor Brian KCIT was fired amid accusations that he lacked experience at senior international level. However, Staunton, although holder of a record 103 international Irish caps as a player, has no management experience whatsoever.
Staunton will have about seven months to prepare for his first competitive outing as manager. Unlike the U.S., Ireland did not qualify for this summer’s World Cup in Germany, so the FAI will schedule a number of international friendlies, beginning with a home game against Sweden. With fans’ morale at an ebb following a disastrous World Cup qualifying series, the transformation of Ireland’s most-capped international player into the team’s new boss will reignite public interest in the team. Staunton’s first responsibility was to attend the qualifying draw for the 2008 European Championships. Ireland will face Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Wales, Cyprus and San Marino. ♦