Belfast Telegraph

So, are standards falling in Irish League?

By Chris Holt

We ask Carling Premiership bosses if they agree with Glentoran manager Scott Young’s scathing assessment of the local game

David Jeffrey (Linfield)

“They are interesting comments from Scott but I don’t agree with him. There is not a decline in the standards, there has been an evening up. There has been a massive amount of work put in by the other clubs and they should be applauded for that.

“When I look at the training habits and schedules, all of these things, the game has moved on considerably.

“On Friday we were bitterly disappointed (losing to Donegal Celtic) but if you look at the quality of their goals, they were excellent. Sometimes you have to take two steps back and analyse the opposition’s performance and give them credit.

“Because the league is tight, doesn’t make it a poor league. What I would point out is that the average age of most teams is very low — there is another generation of players coming through. When you have so many young players they can’t keep up the level of consistency.

“Looking at my team, we put in some great performances, beating Crusaders 8-1 and beating Lisburn Distillery 4-0 which was one of the best performances by us for a couple of seasons.

“They then played Glentoran and were soundly beaten, Glentoran were worthy winners that night. That’s what happens when you have a young team. I was part of the Linfield team that won six league titles in a row and I was also in the team that lost seven times in one season to Glentoran. Now we couldn’t have said that the standards were slipping, it’s just that that particularly team had come to the end of it’s run.

“The vast majority of teams go through that and you have to change. This is our fourth team and they are young and although they won the double last year they are far from the finished article.”

Eddie Patterson (Cliftonville)

“I agree with Scott that the standards probably have slipped a bit but it’s hard to put your finger on why that would be the case. I’d like to think that it is a competitive league first and foremost, which makes it more exciting, not just for Glentoran and Linfield fans.

“It’s similar to what is happening in the English Premiership. If you look at Chelsea and the run that they are on but still they are not that far off the top and still in the hunt.

“It’s hard to quantify why, but it’s definitely a poor Glentoran and Linfield team compared to those in the past and maybe other teams aren’t as good as they were either. To lose six games at this stage in the season, as Glentoran have, and still be right in there, just two points off the lead is almost unheard of.

“Maybe as a whole there is a problem with coaching here, maybe players are being coached too much. When I look around the league, how many flair players are there? How many do you know who you can give the ball to and just let them go and do something special?

“Marty Donnelly at Crusaders is one and there are few others. Certainly at Glentoran and Linfield there are no flair players anymore and when you have players like that it raises excitement levels. I think that maybe that natural ability is being coached out of players at a young age.

“Perhaps there is too much coaching and not enough faith put in players to express themselves.

“We had Liam Boyce here and he was like that. He just went out and played and did some extraordinary things. I don’t think there is enough of that in the league generally.”

Gerry Flynn (Newry City)

“You always get old players saying that it’s not as good as it was in my day and I have never wanted to be one of those people.

“But what I will say is that the mentality of players these days, compared to when I was playing is a lot different. The players have changed, there doesn’t seem to be the same professionalism about them.

“Players these days think that when they have played 20 or 30 games they have arrived whereas years ago, you had to play about 200 before you could be thought of that way. Some of the things you have to deal with now from players are unbelievable.

“As far as the standard is concerned what I will say is that as far as I can remember there have always been a shock or two but never the amount that there have been this season.

“I’ve really scratched my head at some of the results. Look at Linfield against Donegal Celtic. Not long ago they looked invincible, they beat Crusaders eight, they beat us four, then they have a couple of bad results and then lose to the bottom club. It’s crazy.

“It’s hard to say that standards have dropped but it’s fair to say that Linfield and Glentoran are the benchmark for the league. If things are to get better there has to be a change from the players, they can’t expect the wages they have been getting.

“But a lot of clubs have been investing in youth and academies and in a few years time they will begin to bear fruit.

“Certainly that’s where our emphasis has been recently.”

Marty Quinn (Glenavon)

“I don’t think it’s a bad thing that everyone is capable of beating everyone, it makes it more exciting. I wouldn’t knock the players or the standard, I don’t think it has got any better or worse over the years.

“I remember when I was a player and the old ones would say, ‘it wasn’t like this in my day’ and I would say, ‘shut up you stupid old fart, what would you know,’ so I definitely wouldn’t want to go down that route.

I think the weather has had a lot to do with it, this year certainly. Our training facilities are poor and we are going into matches unprepared. We haven’t been able to maintain a level of match fitness. That means that some teams that have maybe been able to get a good period of training together have maybe managed to get a bit of an edge.

“It also leads to inconsistency. Certainly, looking at my team, we went on a run where we went seven or eight games without a win and couldn’t buy a win. Now we are on a similar winning run.

“I would say there is probably more attention paid to tactics than when I first started out. I have just completed my pro-licence and it opened my eyes to a lot of things which can only be good. No, I wouldn’t say the standard has changed — no better, no worse.”

Young’s cutting comments which caused a furore ...

Glentoran boss Scott Young slammed the quality of the Carling Premiership at the weekend, following his side’s 1-0 defeat to Portadown — a match in which the title-chasing Glens failed to turn up in the second half, this after their opponents went down to 10 men as Kevin Braniff was sent off.

Here’s what the fiery Scotsman had to say:

“We've lost six games in the league and Linfield have lost four and Cliftonville have lost however many and Crusaders have lost however many (both have lost seven), that's because the standard of the League's not good enough.”

He added: “If it was a good League at all then that wouldn't be the situation.

“That's not me being detrimental to any other football club — I couldn't give a monkey’s about any other football club, I am only interested in Glentoran.

“But Glentoran have lost six games and we are two points off the leaders. You show me another League like that. People can says it's a tight League and teams are evenly matched but...”

His opposite number on the day, Ronnie McFall, seemed to agree with Young’s assessment when he said: “I don't think there is a lot of difference in the quality right throughout the League.

“I think there is certainly a levelling out.”

Belfast Telegraph


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