Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: You’re well out of it, Howard!

It was a Tuesday last year. I sent a text to the then Irish FA Chief Executive Howard Wells saying that the then Northern Ireland manager Lawrie Sanchez was going to become the full-time boss at Fulham.

Howard’s texted reply was: “Your information is not correct.”

A few days later Lawrie walked out on his Northern Ireland contract and became full-time manager of Fulham.

Never did tell Howard, ‘I told you so.’

It was a Tuesday this year.

Howard Wells called me.

The conversation was about his future at the IFA.

I said to him he didn’t have one! He disagreed replying that he still had much to do at the association.

I won’t be telling him ‘I told you so’ now either.

What I would say is what I said to the hugely respected Jim Boyce when he was stabbed in the back and lost his IFA Presidency – you are well out of it.

Incidentally, had Wells fought harder when the knives were out for Boycie, things may have been different for the Englishman, but that’s another story.

Others in my profession were desperate for Wells to stay.

Me? I wasn’t that bothered because I knew it was coming.

As soon as Howard took a grievance case against the IFA it was a question of when not if he was going to go.

He did modernise the association in many ways and should be commended for that, but he was in charge of several cock-ups as well.

Not least when Northern Ireland actually lost a footballer.

Remember Brian McLean, a promising defender, who wanted to switch his allegiance from Scotland to our wee country?

A letter was supposed to be sent to FIFA before Brian’s 21st birthday to make sure this could happen, but no-one in the IFA knew anything about it.

Sure, never worry we have scores of good young footballers coming through. Give me strength!

In Howard’s time there were also registration farces and a referees strike which stopped the start of the Irish League season!

And of course frosty relationships with Sanchez, Boyce, Kennedy and Northern Ireland supporters which did the IFA more harm than good.

I doubt the relationship with Kennedy will ever thaw and a messy legal battle relating to the sacking of Wells is on the cards.

If Wells is successful in his case and takes the IFA to the cleaners there would be a certain irony because the cash- strapped IFA are desperately trying to save money.

So, with Wells gone what now for the IFA?

Honestly? Who knows?

I do fear for the association and the future of football in Northern Ireland.

As President, Raymond Kennedy has a lot to prove.

He and vice-President David Martin are viewed as a joke by many of the footballing public.

Their timing in dismissing Wells did little to change that image. Appaling. Just two days before a vital Northern Ireland international when everything should be about the IFA team on the pitch, not the buffoons off it. Do these guys not stop and think for a second?

Answer: No. That's why I suspect more trouble lies ahead. Much more trouble.

As I said, Howard, you are well out of it.

Main man Rooney too good for Bhoys

Back in August, I wrote about this being the biggest season of Wayne Rooney’s life.

A time for him to finally deliver world class displays on a consistent basis and to stride towards becoming one of the greatest players in English football history.

Rooney certainly has the talent in his body and an intelligent football mind to do it.

The fear is that a self destruct button is in there too which could wreck a truly great career.

Rooney started the campaign slowly, but in recent weeks he has been buzzing. The class is oozing out of him and now it’s him who is overshadowing Cristiano Ronaldo and not the other way round.

Rooney’s been scoring and making goals galore for Manchester United and England and has been a joy to watch.

There is more to come and that’s bad news for Celtic, who face the scouser and United in the Champions League tomorrow.

Optimistic Celtic fans have been saying their dreadful run on the road in Europe’s Premier club competition - incredibly they have lost 17 out of 18 away games in the Champions League and the other was a draw - and where better than Old Trafford?

Dream on Bhoys.

Celtic’s outstanding fans will travel in their thousands to the Theatre of Dreams but Rooney will make it a nightmare for them.

A warning for Benitez’s comeback kings

Liverpool are emerging as the comeback kings this season.

For most of Saturday’s game at Anfield, Rafael Benitez’s side were awful against Wigan but somehow they conjured up a crucial 3-2 victory after trailing twice.

Middlesbrough, Manchester United and Manchester City have also been ahead of Liverpool only to lose out to late goals.

Yes, under Benitez there have been some memorable comebacks - no one will ever forget Istanbul - but I sense that there is much more steel, substance and character in the current squad .

They are looking like genuine title contenders.

A word of warning though, you can only go to the well so often. They really cannot afford to keep going behind.

Especially not at Stamford Bridge this Sunday. Somehow, given the way Chelsea are playing at present, even this Liverpool side won’t be able to come back against them.

Belfast Telegraph


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