Staunton removed as manager

Ireland manager Steve Staunton was fired on Wednesday over his team's dismal European Championship qualifying campaign.

updated: October 25, 2007 06:49 IST
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Dublin, Ireland:

Ireland manager Steve Staunton was fired on Wednesday over his team's dismal European Championship qualifying campaign.

The 10-member board of the Football Association of Ireland dumped the 38-year-old from his first coaching job after deliberations that ran past midnight.

Staunton reportedly asked to be given the chance to lead the team toward the 2010 World Cup, but was doomed by recent poor performances and fan fury.

In a recent statement, FAI executives said they and Staunton had agreed to terminate the remaining two years of his contract "by mutual consent." Staunton offered no comment.

FAI President David Blood said Staunton and his assistant coaches, who were also being dismissed, "have brought through many young players and leave behind a squad with strong development potential."

It was an ignoble end for Staunton, a dogged defender who was Ireland's most-capped player and veteran of three World Cup campaigns. He described his surprise appointment to manage Ireland as his "dream job" and the greatest honor of his career.

His firing came six days after Ireland drew 1-1 at home to Cyprus. The result ensured that Ireland could not advance from Group D to next year's European finals - the nation's third straight qualification failure.

Soccer analysts said Staunton appeared overwhelmed at times by the requirements of his job, and failed to forge a largely youthful team of British-based professionals into a credible, consistent unit.

"It's been a shambles," said Brendan O'Byrne, former FAI chief executive.

Twenty-one months ago, after Ireland failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup, The FAI unveiled Staunton as national manager - and, unusually, former England coach Bobby Robson as his mentor.

"It was a flawed decision from the beginning," O'Byrne said. "I winced on the morning of the announcement when I heard there was going to be somebody beside him holding his hand. This was sending the signal that he really wasn't up to the job."

Staunton's Euro 2008 campaign was hampered by injuries to key players, his tendency to play inexperienced players in unfamiliar positions, and the 74-year-old Robson's recurring battle with cancer.

Staunton's leading scorer this year, midfielder Stephen Ireland, missed the past three matches after lying to Staunton that he needed to go home because his grandmother had died.

In his 17 matches in charge, Staunton amassed the poorest winning percentage - 35 percent - of any Ireland coach since the 1980s.

More than 16,000 ticket-holders didn't bother to attend the Cyprus match October 17, when the Irish equalized in injury time. Fans who stayed to the end booed and chanted for Staunton's dismissal.

Ireland managed draws at home and narrow 1-0 losses away to Group D winners Germany and Czech Republic.

But the team stoked national shame by struggling against supposed minnows Cyprus and San Marino. Commentators couldn't agree which was worse - October's 5-2 away loss to Cyprus or February's 2-1 victory in San Marino.

That win against a team, which had not scored a competitive goal since 1998, required a last-second goal.

Ireland has struggled in vain to return to its glory days under Jack Charlton, who led the Irish to their first World Cups in 1990 and 1994. Charlton resigned after Ireland narrowly failed to qualify for Euro 1996 in a playoff loss.

Mick McCarthy got Ireland to the second round of the 2002 World Cup, despite fighting a debilitating feud with ousted captain Roy Keane, but was axed after failing to qualify for Euro 2004.

Brian Kerr amassed the best winning record of any Irish coach - 55 percent - but was replaced by Staunton after not reaching World Cup 2006.

Staunton has declined to talk to reporters since the Cyprus draw.