John Giles famously lamented our young people’s distractions with ‘personal stereos.’ Eamon Dunphy said we needed poverty and dictatorships. Now Liam Brady has blasted social media’s influence on the ever-decreasing Irish talent pool.
The Ireland and Arsenal legend said clubs like the Gunners were forced to broaden the global net in the search for young potential because British and Irish players were wasting time on Facebook instead of honing their skills.
Speaking to FourFourTwo magazine, the RTE pundit recalled his own upbringing and attitude to the game.
“…growing up in Dublin I played for a young boys’ club. We trained maybe once or twice a week and played on the weekend.”
“When I wasn’t with the football club I would practise on my own because I didn’t have anything to keep me at home – we weren’t staying at home with a video game or on Facebook.”
Apart from professionals landing themselves in hot-water with comments on social media, Brady says there’s a lack of hunger now in Irish and British youngsters. They spend less time developing their skills because of the distractions available in Ireland and other developed countries.
“That has been a negative for the pool of players that once existed in the British Isles and you can see why we have to broaden our scouting system to cope with that.”
There are far fewer Irish players making the grade at the academies in Britain. While Lionel Messi was breaking records this week, it’s worth recalling that the Argentine was enrolled in Barcelona’s youth academy at the age of 11.
The top clubs now command the pick of young players from around the world and Ireland’s technical deficiency due to an over-reliance on the British style, combined with the outside distractions facing kids in western Europe means we’re no longer producing top-class players.
The Republic of Ireland was the lowest valued team at Euro 2012 in terms of financial worth but sadly, the same could be said for our footballing ability.
“Fewer players come in from the local pool of talent,” says Brady.
“We’re battling against all the modern things that are around for teenagers, and we can suffer because they are less hungry as a result.”
On the other hand, for those that do make the breakthrough and are signed to British clubs at a young age, the landscape is vastly different to when Brady first crossed the Irish Sea along with Frank Stapleton and David O’Leary.
“On the plus side, the money spent on academies is phenomenal and the help that these kids get, to mould them into good professionals, is far superior to what it used to be.”
Much of the argument around the current Irish squad focuses on our lack of quality players. We’ve seen a complete drop-off in support for the Irish national team since the summer with dwindling attendances and criticism of the lack of technical ability.
Sadly, until the next generation are trying to emulate the likes of Messi on their local greens rather than a video game, Irish players will have more followers on Twitter than in the stands at the Aviva Stadium.