Stephen Hunt

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Sport - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHEN HUNT

Former team-mates are re­tir­ing and mak­ing tough de­ci­sions about their fu­tures. Rob­bie is just the lat­est to join the ranks of coaches from the Ire­land teams of the last decade.

AFORMER Ire­land striker an­nounced his re­tire­ment last week to con­cen­trate on his new role as a coach and an as­sis­tant man­ager. But enough about my brother Noel, Rob­bie Keane has re­tired too.

Ev­ery­where I look now, former team-mates are re­tir­ing and mak­ing tough de­ci­sions about their fu­tures. Rob­bie is just the lat­est to join the ranks of coaches from the Ire­land teams of the last decade and his route is very dif­fer­ent to Noel’s and oth­ers.

Kevin Doyle and Damien Duff are tak­ing it slowly and do­ing the coach­ing equiv­a­lent of get­ting their hands dirty by work­ing with un­der 15 and un­der 17 teams with Ire­land and Sham­rock Rovers. Duff has been talk­ing to Celtic about mov­ing on to the next level in his coach­ing devel­op­ment.

My former Wolves team-mate Kevin Fo­ley is also tak­ing the longer route through youth coach­ing and he has joined the academy at Mo­lineux to work on player devel­op­ment with 13and 14-year-olds.

Some­times it is bet­ter to find a new lad­der to climb, rather than wait to fall off the one you’re on, and some of my ex-team-mates are still play­ing, try­ing to suck the last bit of life out of be­ing a player. Some have re­tired sooner than I ex­pected, some not by choice.

Rob­bie will be in the mid­dle of the ac­tion in his role as Ire­land’s as­sis­tant coach. It is a bril­liant op­por­tu­nity for him. He can take a lot of in­for­ma­tion and learn­ing on board, not just through Mick McCarthy and Terry Con­nor, but by go­ing to dif­fer­ent coun­tries and see­ing how other coaches han­dle in­ter­na­tional foot­ball.

But it will not be straight­for­ward to make the tran­si­tion to coach be­cause he was so re­cently a player in the Ire­land dress­ing room.

He is start­ing afresh in the new job where he can look and learn and have an in­put in an in­ter­na­tional dress­ing room, and more im­por­tantly know when to have an in­put. His nat­u­ral in­stinct will tell him when to speak up and when to keep his mouth shut and let the play­ers play and learn from their own mis­takes.

He knows Mick well but he will see how Mick has evolved and how he han­dles things dif­fer­ently now. Is Mick a bet­ter man­ager now? Def­i­nitely. And he will still make mis­takes.

Noel and Rob­bie will both have a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity to learn the ropes and de­cide what their fu­ture roles will be un­der Richard Wel­lens, who is charge at Swin­don, and Mick McCarthy re­spec­tively. And one of the big­gest les­sons is that the as­sis­tant will al­ways re­main loyal to the man­ager.

In all my years in the game, I have never met a more loyal as­sis­tant than Terry Con­nor. One of the as­sis­tant’s ma­jor du­ties is deal­ing with un­happy play­ers, but they can never go against the man­ager and Terry has al­ways been bril­liant in that role.

A new man­age­rial set-up with Ire­land was al­ways go­ing to of­fer a player like Rob­bie Keane an op­por­tu­nity; it was just a case of when, and how. It fits in with his fam­ily and life­style at the mo­ment and means he does not have to move to Eng­land for work yet. And he won’t be the one who gets the stick if things do go wrong, just as no one blamed Steve Wal­ford, Steve Guppy or Sea­mus McDon­agh un­der the pre­vi­ous regime.

The big­gest task will be to get through the next two years with­out any ma­jor blips or con­tro­ver­sies.

Mick will un­doubt­edly get a good re­ac­tion as he tries to lift the squad. We can an­tic­i­pate a feel-good fac­tor com­ing back into the squad and Rob­bie will be an in­te­gral part of that.

Any­one who fin­ishes foot­ball re­alises that, if you want to stay in the game and still earn a liv­ing from it, you have to learn new skills, and lis­ten to every­one for ad­vice and guid­ance.

If you missed Noel’s an­nounce­ment on the same day as Rob­bie’s, then you are not alone. I had no idea ei­ther but then I am al­ready used to Noel’s new ti­tle as as­sis­tant man­ager at Swin­don Town, where fel­low former Ir­ish player Alan McLough­lin is the academy man­ager. After his suc­cess at Water­ford, he could have played on for an­other year, but Noel feels he is ready for a go at coach­ing and work­ing as an as­sis­tant as he chooses his new path­way and looks to stay in the game.

Ev­ery player is dif­fer­ent when it comes to choos­ing their new path. Work­ing in League Two, Noel will come across play­ers in dif­fer­ent stages of their ca­reers and will have a ma­jor role to play in their fu­tures. Some of the older lads will fall out of the game nat­u­rally and will be look­ing for jobs else­where. Oth­ers are only start­ing out will want to ful­fil their po­ten­tial.

Noel knows he could have two or three years of coach­ing and dis­cov­er­ing whether he sees his fu­ture as an as­sis­tant and/or a coach, or whether he likes what he sees in Richie Wel­lens and will have the urge to be­come a man­ager him­self. Rob­bie Keane, Damien Duff, Kevin Doyle and Kevin Fo­ley have all taken dif­fer­ent routes, but even­tu­ally they will have to make these de­ci­sions too.

McCarthy will un­doubt­edly get a good re­ac­tion

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