Wednesday, 23 January 2008

Steve Finnan – underappreciated, under-used, understandably sick of it

If one sight during Steve Staunton’s reign as Ireland manager made my blood boil ever so slightly it was the treatment of Stephen Carr. Basically, the over-indulgence of a moody git whose best days were long since behind him.

I know it’s easy for people to pick on Carr as his lack of media interviews mean whatever pre-conceptions you have about the man can stay in place due to a lack of evidence to the contrary. None of his team-mates ever have a bad thing to say about him true, but you don’t hear anyone screaming off rooftops, telling the world to lay off Carr because he’s a decent bloke either.

Carr decided when Stan took over that he would return to the fold and help out the Irish team, a noble thought if ever there was one. But the knock-on effect of this was that once again Steve Finnan was treated like a piece of crap that could be thrown around a starting eleven because "he wouldn’t mind sure".

Finnan, a superb defender who never performs at a level of anything less than seven out of ten, has won a Champions League medal and FA Cup medal to boot. He’s handled the finest wingers and strikers in Europe on a consistent basis and is rarely the victim of Rafa Benitez’s rotation policy.

Yet, for years he has played on the left or on the right wing for Ireland. Then, back in late 2005, when it looked as if he would finally get the right back spot as his own, along comes Carr to ‘save’ the day. Carr, a man who could be accused of treating the national team with contempt due to multiple retirements and lackluster performances, decided to grace us with his presence and Finnan was shoved aside.

There was never any logic to this decision. Though of course, Carr is one of the old boys who Stan loved so much and the petty Dundalk man thought he could do what he liked with the consummate professional Finnan. Carr was first choice right back; a decision that on form alone would not have been made by any other coach I can think of. Fat boy with an attitude versus dependable right back who delivers as many assists in Europe or the Premier League as any man in his position. No contest in the logic stakes, but then logic was never Stan’s strong point.

Even when Carr was injured, we then had the John O’Shea at right back with Finnan on the left fiasco. The poor ‘Pool defender was treated with continued disregard by a manager who, rumour has it, Finnan said taught him less than any other coach he had worked at in any level of professional football.

Remember Finnan has played in every league from the Conference up in his time. That’s a pretty damning indictment. If that rumour is true of course, but it has a ring of truth about it to me.

It came as no surprise yesterday when Finnan announced his retirement from international football, having been used as a human Swiss Army knife by Ireland for too long. He wants to prolong his career at the top level and fair play to him for it. I doubt there’s a football fan alive who would begrudge him that.

However, I still think the way this world class defender was treated by Staunton, and to a certain extent Brian Kerr and Mick McCarthy, was horrendous. And all simply because he wasn’t one of the old boys network. Before a new man even has the chance to reassure him of his place he has decided he’s had enough with the FAI and their woeful choice of coaches. Perhaps personifying the frustration many fans feel with Irish football over the last few years.

A fine player. If only those managing his country appreciated him.


Mark said...

yes, but he's only 31 and left his country up shit creek, who now at right back - stephen kelly? O'Shea.

Finnan, admit it, u couldn't be arsed, could ya?

Cathal O'Brien said...

But who's fault is that??

Mark said...

he could have waited to speak to the new manager

dar said...

He'll be 34 by the time we fail to qualify for the next World Cup. I think he is right. Criminally mismanaged. Anyway, it'll leave him with more time to continue his bullying of OAPs with his brother...

Parrotbait said...

Very badly managed, I've heard some rumour(no doubt wrong as no-one knows whats going on) that Finnan heard who the next manager is going to be and this hastened his exit.
Really like Finnan, few people remember that it was him that setup 'Jayo' for the goal against Holland that got us to the WC in 2002!