Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Jim Boyce: I do miss certain things, but not the back stabbing

I don't miss the back stabbing: Jim Boyce exclusive interview with Steven Beacom

The Irish FA Annual General Meeting took place last night. It was announced that the association made a loss of almost £300,000 but in terms of drama it didn't get close to this time last year when Jim Boyce was dramatically ousted as IFA President by Raymond Kennedy at an IFA Council meeting.

The vote actually ended 23-23 with a deflated and upset Boyce opting to stand down.

Affectionately known as "Boyce the Voice", his departure came as a major shock to the footballing public in Northern Ireland in what was deemed the "Night of the long knives" at Windsor Avenue.

Boyce, who felt betrayed by certain IFA colleagues, had been a popular President for 12 years from June 1995.

That night he became an honorary life President of the IFA — a title that he holds with great esteem.

Twelve months on, in an interview with the Belfast Telegraph, he spoke about his feelings.

He said: "It was one year ago this week that I left the position of IFA President.

"Obviously there are some things that I miss but there are other things I certainly don't miss such as the back stabbing and all the controversy.

"Looking back perhaps I was prepared to take too much on my shoulders. Maybe that was a fault of mine.

"I was willing to make decisions and was also prepared to take the flak if it came, and maybe there were people who felt I took too many decisions.

"The main reason people said they voted against me was because I was abroad too much. Raymond Kennedy said the IFA needed a Boyce at home.

"I still believe that when I was abroad for UEFA or FIFA I helped the IFA, securing big international games and the European under-19 tournament and such like, and even now when on UEFA and FIFA business I still do all I can for Northern Ireland football.

"I would add that everything that I did as IFA President was for the good of the association."

In general that's how the fans saw it. Even now many come up to him on the street offering their support.

At the IFA these days, current President Kennedy and IFA Chief Executive Howard Wells aren't exactly seeing eye to eye.

Boyce, though, wouldn't comment on the internal dispute.

He stated: "When the vote between Raymond Kennedy and myself ended 23-23 and I decided to step down, I said I was not prepared in the future to speak about the internal running of the IFA.

"That remains the case though I do wonder what the major improvements have been in the last 12 months.

"There are certain things that need to be addressed like where the Northern Ireland team will play their games in the future.

"That situation has to be resolved as soon as possible.

"Obviously there has been all the talk in the last few years about the Maze and who knows how that will end up, but I recall being asked about the possibility of a new stadium by the Sports Council way back in 1997!

"So, the issue has been there since then and we seem no further on."

Boyce, who will become the FIFA Vice-President in 2011, believes there are positive elements in football here. "On the international front, I'm really looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers and I genuinely feel that Northern Ireland have nothing to fear," said the 64-year-old.

"I've watched our group opponents, Poland and the Czech Republic in Euro 2008 and while they are strong sides, they don't worry me at all.

"Remember both will be under new management and several of their senior players are retiring from international football, for instance the Czech striker Jan Koller, so it may be a good time to play them.

"If our manager Nigel Worthington gets the tactics right and our players show the same commitment that has been on display in recent years, I believe we will be in the mix for qualification, especially if David Healy keep scoring.

"I was so pleased for David when he was awarded the MBE. It was well deserved. He's a great ambassador for Northern Ireland.

"On the domestic scene it is tremendous that we have the new 12 team Premier League starting in August. The bottom team in that league will win £21,000. It wasn't that long ago that the winners received £8,000. Now they will get £50,000! And of course we have the deal with Sky TV which takes Irish League football to a larger audience.

"That is excellent for our game. Obviously we need to look at the facilities at grounds and again I would help with that although at the moment I'm enjoying spending some quality time with my wife Hazel and my family. That was the best thing that came out of what happened to me at the IFA last year."

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