BRIAN McDermott has as much in common with Giovanni Trapattoni as Simon Cowell has with good taste. Whereas Trap is a shameless egotist – “I played with great players, I managed great players” – McDermott is self-deprecating.
Yet soon their names could very easily be linked to a chain of office, Trapattoni as this century’s fourth Irish international manager, McDermott as the fifth.
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If this seems an outlandish prediction, then bear in mind the following. Trap is 73, has agreed a deal to keep him with Ireland until 2014, and will then, surely, call it a day, unless the FAI calls it on his behalf before then.
McDermott, at 51, is the coming man. Having led Reading to the Premier League, despite having the sixth lowest budget in a 24-team-division, he has secured his status as a superb manager of both budgets and men.
And unlike Trap, he isn’t afraid of hard work.
A tale of how he spotted Jimmy Kebe, once an unheralded winger, now regarded as a £2million man, typifies his approach. “It was a Tuesday night, and our scouts had told us about Jimmy so I made the trip to Le Havre to see for myself. I had a lot on that week, but something told me to go.” It was worth the train-ticket because Kebe, a £50,000 signing, has been immense for Reading.
And so has McDermott. Whereas Trap will only cross his sitting room to watch an Irish player for his club, McDermott will cross channels and customs. He is the one credited for persuading Steve Coppell that Kevin Doyle and the League of Ireland was worth investing in. Until Doyle moved, nobody had touched the League with a barge-pole since Cobh sold Roy Keane to Nottingham Forest.
Tactically he is shrewd too – far from a stickler to one system, although he doesn’t tinker with formations for the sake of trying to look clever.
“Success comes down to creating a good environment and doing the simple things endlessly,” he says. “You can do that anywhere.”
Where he wants to do it is with Ireland. “That’s my dream job,” he has said.
Could he be a dream appointment? Well, what other options will Ireland have in 2014? Mick McCarthy? Chris Hughton? Roy Keane? Will Denis O’Brien’s sponsorship of the manager’s salary continue? The reality is that the FAI’s purse strings could soon tighten.
That leaves McDermott as a prime candidate. The fact he doesn’t wear flashy suits on the touchline and doesn’t endlessly boast about his greatness doesn’t mean he lacks either confidence or class.
Unlike Owen Coyle, Alan Pardew, Phil Brown and Brendan Rodgers, men who were far from shy in cultivating their own image after winning promotion, McDermott is unlikely to go down the self-congratulatory path. That adds to his appeal. Most people are modest because they have plenty to be modest about. McDermott is different. After indulging in Italian style, it’s time we looked for some London-Irish substance.