Belfast Telegraph

Monday 21 April 2014

Howard Wells - success or failure? A bit of both actually

Howard Wells has been offered a one-year contract to stay on as the Irish FA's chief executive.

He would have preferred a longer term deal to finish the work that he started back in January 2005.

But even so, financially the package is a good one. Indeed, word from the inside is that it is more than the salaries of some previous Northern Ireland managers.

So, is Wells worth it? Has Howard's way worked?

Well, yes and no.

Bear in mind that when Wells was brought in the IFA was in a bit of mess.

Financially the association was on the road to ruin.

And in terms of embarrassment, the IFA were bankrupt such was the never-ending stream of cock-ups that emanated from Windsor Avenue.

Mention the words " ineligible players" and there are still some at headquarters who will squirm.

The feeling was that the IFA lacked professionalism.

Wells wanted to change that image and in the main he has, especially in terms of the financial situation.

The IFA have a much better structure money-wise now.

And of course along with former president Jim Boyce, he was instrumental in bringing in a whopping £10 million from a Sky TV deal, that not only included Northern Ireland home matches but also Irish League games being broadcast live.

Wells has also played his part in ensuring the IFA's commercial side is more profitable, although the team's success under Lawrie Sanchez and David Healy's goals clearly helped him there. What didn't help Wells was the departure of Sanchez.

The pair of them had a frosty relationship at best. That didn't have any impact on the results but I feel it didn't help when Lawrie left and the shambolic way the IFA handled it.

I remember telling Howard a few days before Lawrie left the Northern Ireland job that he was going to leave and become full-time boss at Fulham.

Wells informed me that I was wrong. After what happened in Latvia and Iceland last month I wish I had been.

And thinking about Riga and Reykjavik, Wells and the IFA made a right mess of handling the unsavoury plane bust-up between Keith Gillespie and George McCartney. The IFA's initial statement on the matter, which brought more confusion than the incident caused in the first place, was a joke and I sense Howard knows that now.

When he was appointed, on his first day he declared: "There's a real need to improve communications at all levels."

There still is, Howard, there still is. Wells has to lead from the front on that score and not let others make him look silly, if he accepts the one year deal.

Also not landing himself on the front pages, unlike when he himself was caught up in an embarrassing row with Boycie, would be useful.

And finally sorting out the whole Maze stadium debate is a must. That may be the issue that defines him most.

Overall, Wells has probably done more good than harm for the IFA, but Howard's way certainly has not been smooth. There could be more bumpy times ahead.

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