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Thread: Past v Present

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    Past v Present

    I thought I'd start a thread on something that I've been reading about. That's our current squad, it's strength and the chances of it strengthening. What I want to look at is the strength in comparison to different era's. Specifically this century. Is it more difficult to make a breakthrough at the highest level now than previously? The highest level for our players is generally regarded as premier league level. Looking back at out 2002 squad, many were premier league regulars. But would they be now? Kevin Kilbane played a huge amount of premier league games throughout his career, I think he'd be championship level if he was around now. Would Matt Holland or Mark Kinsella be also in the championship? Ian Harte? McAteer? Would Duff get signed by Chelsea? Robbie Keane might have been a lower premier league player. It's the same when looking at more recent players. I don't think Keith Andrews, Kevin Doyle, Glenn Whelan and so on could get past championship level.

    I'm not trying to degrade these players. They all were fantastic for us and served us well. It just seems harder now to make it at the top level. For the reverse of the above, I think Dara O'Shea would have made a quicker return to the premier league, same with John Egan, Josh Cullen is a better player than Whelan, Kinsella and Holland, he'd be a regulars in times past. Same with many of our other players, they would have had a greater opportunity in the past. Now, this is just my opinion and I've eaten and drank quite a bit over Christmas so I'm just creating this thread out of boredom and a little recovery session for my mind. I'm just going to add this, they were different formations but if I was picking the best 11 using current players v the team that played Spain in 2002 this is what I'd come up with:

    Team v Spain:
    Given
    Finnan Breen Staunton Harte
    Kelly Holland Kinsella Kilbane
    Duff Keane

    Team with current players available:

    Given
    Finnan Collins Egan O'Shea
    Doherty Cullen Kinsella McClean
    Duff Keane

    Time for a nap!

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    Seasoned Pro irishfan86's Avatar
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    Not a knock on you but I think there's some recency bias going on.

    While the concentration of money/resources has continued to intensify in the Premier League, I suspect the likes of Keane, Duff and Given in their primes would still be stars at premier league level if they were dropped into a team today. I think Given is probably the one that would find it difficult to play at a team in the top half of the table because he was never the best with his ball at his feet, which is now an expected part of the role for a top 10 premier league team, and probably throughout the league.

    Likewise Finnan, Staunton and Harte were part of teams that achieved major success, whether at the top in England or in European competition. Gary Kelly was probably at that level too despite the lack of trophies.

    I like Cullen a lot but he has a lot of work ahead of him to have a career as good as Holland and Kinsella. Neither of them were stars but they were very solid pros for a long time.
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    I'd concur with that and would also suggest Kilbane is way ahead of McClean as a footballer. Maybe the most reliable indicator of relative talent is the success achieved by those players in an Ireland shirt. I agree that the paucity of recent results is not entirely down to the quality of playing talent, but even allowing for the Kenny factor, it's a very significant consideration.

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    Quote Originally Posted by irishfan86 View Post
    Likewise Finnan, Staunton and Harte were part of teams that achieved major success, whether at the top in England or in European competition. Gary Kelly was probably at that level too despite the lack of trophies.
    Kelly and Harte were both regulars in that Leeds team that reached the Champions League semifinals. That's a serious achievement. Harte had his issues with position at fullback for sure, though his setpieces help balance out. I don't think O'Shea has shown anything comparable.

    Cullen has no place in that team; not at this stage in his career. I'd probably take Collins over Breen alright. Doherty for Kelly could be argued alright.
    Last edited by pineapple stu; 27/12/2022 at 8:47 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by irishfan86 View Post
    Not a knock on you but I think there's some recency bias going on.

    While the concentration of money/resources has continued to intensify in the Premier League, I suspect the likes of Keane, Duff and Given in their primes would still be stars at premier league level if they were dropped into a team today. I think Given is probably the one that would find it difficult to play at a team in the top half of the table because he was never the best with his ball at his feet, which is now an expected part of the role for a top 10 premier league team, and probably throughout the league.

    Likewise Finnan, Staunton and Harte were part of teams that achieved major success, whether at the top in England or in European competition. Gary Kelly was probably at that level too despite the lack of trophies.

    I like Cullen a lot but he has a lot of work ahead of him to have a career as good as Holland and Kinsella. Neither of them were stars but they were very solid pros for a long time.
    Oh I think 2002 was a better team but mainly due to those 3 players. Given, Duff and Keane but I don't think Duff would get to Chelsea level these days. Remember, even back then, he only had a few seasons at Chelsea while the rest of his time was at Blackburn, Newcastle and Fulham. But I think it's save to say that Finnan would struggle to make a champions league team these days. Staunton had no legs left but held onto Villa, I'd put Harte in the Finnan bracket, he was good but wouldn't get close th where he got these days.

    Mentioning their careers is kind of my point. They had those careers in an era with less competition than now. Still early enough days but to me, Cullen looks more talented than Kinsella and Holland. When comparing the strength of the squads, then v now. I think they're broadly similar bar 3 to 4 stand out players who make all the difference. Without Roy Keane back then, getting to the World Cup would have been unlikely.

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    Quote Originally Posted by third policeman View Post
    I'd concur with that and would also suggest Kilbane is way ahead of McClean as a footballer. Maybe the most reliable indicator of relative talent is the success achieved by those players in an Ireland shirt. I agree that the paucity of recent results is not entirely down to the quality of playing talent, but even allowing for the Kenny factor, it's a very significant consideration.
    Well, if you're comparing achievements in an Ireland shirt, you have to take into account some varying factors. Mainly, what teammates each had. I think Kilbane and McClean are similar in many ways. Neither the most talented but amazingly loyal and got the best out of what they had. Kilbane 110 caps and 8 goals, McClean 96 caps and 11 goals thus far. It's close but I'd have McClean ahead of Kilbane.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pineapple stu View Post
    Kelly and Harte were both regulars in that Leeds team that reached the Champions League semifinals. That's a serious achievement. Harte had his issues with position at fullback for sure, though his setpieces help balance out. I don't think O'Shea has shown anything comparable.

    Cullen has no place in that team; not at this stage in his career. I'd probably take Collins over Breen alright. Doherty for Kelly could be argued alright.
    What I'm saying is that I don't think Harte or Kelly would be in a champs league squad in this era. The lack of pace for Harte would leave him at a lower level. A few of the positions would be very close calls, the only certainties would be Given, Keane and Duff in my book.

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    No, I get the point and there's certainly something in it.

    I just don't think you can replace a CL semifinalist of that era with at best a solid Championship player of this era.

    Doherty for Kelly is a different kettle of fish of course

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    Oh yeah, like I alluded to, there would be some very close calls. But I think players of a similar ability are playing at a lower level now than back then and even up to the past few years. So that's what we'll have to get used to? The majority of our squad playing in the championship except for the really good players who can maybe get a game in a middle to lower tier premier league team and we will find it very hard to have a champions league regular, it will take an exceptional talent.

    We need to keep this in mind when talking about our squad strength going forward. Our current squad isn't as weak many would paint it, it's just different times. Of course, we're missing the few top players like a Duff or a Keane but I think they're on the way.

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    For what it's worth, by my count 20 Irish players currently aged 25 or under have played in the Premier League - that seems like a healthy number, despite the ever increasing international make-up of the league. I'm not sure how it compares to previous eras, such as around the time of the 2002 world cup, but I'd say it's not too far off our best numbers wise.

    Many of those players only have a small number of appearances and some may never play at that level again, but it shows that there are still chances to be had in the Premier League - though mostly with teams outside the big 6/7 clubs.

    Anyway these are the 20 players, their ages and the clubs that played them. 12 of them capped at senior level for us, four more have been named in senior squads but not capped.

    Jimmy Dunne (25) - Burnley
    Caoimhin Kelleher (24) - Liverpool
    Connor Ronan (24) - Wolves
    Mark Travers (23) - Bournemouth
    Dara O'Shea (23) - West Brom
    Jayson Molumby (23) - Brighton
    Michael Obafemi (22) - Southampton
    Aaron Connolly (22) - Brighton
    Will Smallbone (22) - Southampton
    Conor Coventry (22) - West Ham
    Nathan Collins (21) - Burnley/Wolves
    Adam Idah (21) - Norwich
    Gavin Bazunu (20) - Southampton
    Troy Parrott (20) - Tottenham
    Andrew Omobamidele (20) - Norwich
    Joe Hodge (20) - Wolves
    Tom Cannon (20) - Everton
    Tony Springett (20) - Norwich
    Andrew Moran (19) - Brighton
    Evan Ferguson (18) - Brighton

    Brighton, Southampton, Wolves and Norwich stand out as the teams that are still willing to give youth players a chance. Probably not a coincidence that four of our biggest (and by all accounts most grounded) homegrown prospects - Collins, Bazunu, Omobamidele and Ferguson - have found their way to those clubs - they're playing the percentages well.

    I'd say arguably our most unlucky player in this regard has been Jason Knight. Five years ago Derby probably seemed like a very sensible club to go to, another Norwich/Brighton type of team where he'd get a chance and they might get up to the Premier League. But it's just all gone wrong for them since and he's been badly affected by that. He's easily as good and probably better than many of the names on the list, but he's never played at that level and might not anytime soon with his contract situation at Derby.
    Last edited by Eirambler; 04/01/2023 at 12:22 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BOOMSHAKALAKA View Post
    Oh yeah, like I alluded to, there would be some very close calls. But I think players of a similar ability are playing at a lower level now than back then and even up to the past few years. So that's what we'll have to get used to? The majority of our squad playing in the championship except for the really good players who can maybe get a game in a middle to lower tier premier league team and we will find it very hard to have a champions league regular, it will take an exceptional talent.

    We need to keep this in mind when talking about our squad strength going forward. Our current squad isn't as weak many would paint it, it's just different times. Of course, we're missing the few top players like a Duff or a Keane but I think they're on the way.

    BOOMSHAKALAKA!!!!
    That's true and while theres been a rebalance and lower premiership and upper championship is probably the correct calibration for us now given that the rest of the world has caught up. I think there's two major factors, the sport is truly global now, especially when our main market is the most global league in the world, and the fact that smaller nations and inferior footballing nations have now caught up with the rest of Europe(outside the top 8 say).

    So whilst I agree with your general selection and comparisons, the competition was not nearly as strong back then even in Europe.
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