AM I the only one who feels a bit sorry for Noel King?
Once again the main debate after an Ireland game centres on what was said in the RTE studio, rather than anything that happened on the pitch.
This time King was up for discussion after he got snotty with reporter Tony O’Donoghue, who questioned whether Ireland would have been better served by orthodox wingers like James McClean and Aiden McGeady rather than playing Kevin Doyle and Anthony Stokes “out of position”.
King got arsey, suggested O’Donoghue hadn’t “done his homework” and that these two had played wide numerous times for their clubs.
Back around the analysis table, King was dismissed as immature, out of his depth and “a bully” by the panel, with Dunphy, predictably, leading the charge.
For as long as I can remember – a little over 30 years – Dunphy has been leading the charge against the Ireland manager despite the fact that the last one, Giovanni Trapattoni, he campaigned to get appointed.
And, the man he thinks should be the next full-time boss, Mick McCarthy, well … the Dunph was resolutely in favour of him getting sacked in 2002.
Dunphy would like to see himself as the defender of journalism by speaking up for O’Donoghue against the “bully” King. The reality is far removed from that picture.
O’Donoghue is accomplished enough to stand his own ground. And King is no bully. He’s an interim manager thrown into a situation that is far in advance of his experience. He has done a decent job I reckon.
Against Germany we lost 3-0 away, as opposed to 6-1 at home under Trap. We also created a few chances and actually tried to pass the football.
A 3-1 win last night was not a terrible result.
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His reaction to the questions afterwards was certainly undignified, but he is not a bully. I don’t think King was having a personal cut against O’Donoghue, more he was on the back foot because he was confronted by what he sees as the RTE machine.
Managers come and go, players too. The RTE panel, though, would survive an asteroid that wipes out the rest of humankind.
They have the right balance of gravitas and footballing genius masquerading as common sense (Giles), controversy (Dunphy) and dust-ups (Dunphy with Liam Brady) to ensure the ratings stay high, even when the games they cover would usually dictate otherwise.
This panel, which Bill O’Herlihy has prodded and guided shrewdly since the days of Haughey and Fitzgerald, has clout. Lots of people say they are “old-fashioned, irrelevant” etc but very few ignore them.
The prospect of Noel King bullying their station’s reporter is far-fetched. What we saw was little more than a defensive show of insolence against a more powerful force.
King is a long-time servant of the FAI, and knows better than most the reach the RTE grandees have. He knows how a manager’s achievements can quickly be forgotten as public opinion is turned by the Donnybrook perennials.
King had already had a full dose of “robust comment” on Friday night, when Dunphy (who apparently never got personal said we’d be as well off having a member of public picking the team).
He was wrong to lash back by calling the panel a “comedy show”. Again, that was ill-advised and petty, but you can see how Dunphy had touched a nerve.
Noel King is not some member of public who won the right to manage Ireland in the interim thanks to an X Factor-style vote.
Noel King is that frequently-maligned being: an Irish football man. He has been involved in the domestic game all his adult life, as a player or coach. Like Irish domestic football, he is rough around the edges, far from polished. But there’s a passion and earthiness to King which makes him endearing.
Anybody who has ever stood on the terraces at League of Ireland grounds or played the game as a kid will have met hundreds of people like King.
He’s the guy humping a bag of faded jerseys to the dressing room, the guy hunched in the rain at Tolka Park or Turners Cross. These men give their lives to a game that has nearly always been the poor cousin of Irish sports. And they do so with humour and stoicism.
Dunphy likes to speak on behalf of the “real football people” of Ireland; they are the constituency he assumes to represent when railing against whoever is Ireland’s manager of the day.
Well, King is somebody that constituency would certainly recognise as kin.
Everybody knew he wasn’t going to be the Ireland boss for long, but during his short stint he deserves to be treated seriously. This undignified row would not have happened if Dunphy had showed him just a minimum amount of respect.
And Dunphy would do well to remember that he’s not insulting an overpaid absentee foreign coach now. Robbie Keane summoned up Noel King succinctly.
“He’s one of our own.”