WE can all now agree that this month’s international break was a very bad idea and the fall-out will rumble on for months to come.
The frustration for the game’s biggest clubs and their managers is, we all saw, the chaos which comes from their players leaving their bubbles to link up with their national teams.
We got a taster of what was on the horizon last month as Ireland’s preparations for the Euro 2020 qualifier in Slovakia were thrown in the air due to Covid-19 issues and the last few days have taken this problem to a new level.
Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is currently self-isolating in Egypt after attending his brother’s wedding and getting infected with the virus, but his story was only a small slice of the mayhem.
So many players have dropped out of international squads after testing positive for Covid-19, with Ireland losing Matt Doherty and James McClean and Bulgaria losing players ahead of the game at the Aviva Stadium this evening.
So many international teams have seen drop-outs due to Covid and while you could say we have to find a way to get these games played, it doesn’t look viable at this moment.
Club football seems to have worked with players in their Covid bubbles, but sending them out to mix with different groups of people all over has backfired.
On top of the Covid issues, we have seen players dropping with injuries all over the place and Liverpool are waiting to find out how bad the problems are for Jordan Henderson and Andy Robertson ahead of Sunday’s game against Leicester.
Joe Gomez has gone for the season with an injury picked up training with England and the clubs are left to pick up the pieces of the carnage this international break has caused.
Amid it all, Ireland and their new manager Stephen Kenny have been living through a nightmare on and off the pitch.
This mess has affected Kenny’s plans and it wouldn’t surprise me if he is now questioning why he decided to take on the Ireland job when he did.
He could have sat back for a few months, let Mick McCarthy take the team during what was always going to be a crazy period and wait for the right moment to take over.
Instead, he insisted he wanted the job right away and now he finds himself with huge questions to answer.
Kenny is heading into tonight’s game against Bulgaria under real pressure after failing to win any of his first seven games in charge and, alarmingly, his team have not scored a goal in the last six matches.
I want to see Ireland succeed, but it’s hard to see how we will get consistent results promoting a passing brand of football with these players.
The sides Ireland have played during Kenny’s first few matches are hardly world superpowers, but we have struggled to make an impression and the results confirm as much.
Now let’s say we get Germany or Holland in a World Cup qualifier next year and try to play a passing style against them.
How is that going to work out? It might not be pretty.
I saw Roy Keane on TV the other night and he was questioning how we can transform the way Ireland have played for the last four decades with the current set of players.
It all seems a little naive to believe it can be done and so far, it clearly hasn’t worked.
When you see Darren Randolph chipping balls out to big Shane Duffy and then expect the Celtic defender to produce a bit of a skill to start an attacking move, it looks like a recipe for disaster to me.
Randolph is a good keeper, but he has constantly looked like he is going to make mistakes when he is trying to follow the manager’s advice to play it out from the back.
So, while it would be great to see Ireland adopt a more expansive style of play, you need the players to do that and Ireland don’t have them at the moment.
The Ireland teams I was a part of had some great players in the mix, but we blended top-class talent in a side that played a direct and high-energy brand of football that worked for us and made us a nightmare to play against. Kenny could do something similar, but instead he is looking to play a style of football that is not producing results now and may not for as long as we try it.
I would panic if I went on a six-game run without scoring a goal in my playing days, but for a team to go this long without hitting the back of the net is scary.
We could all be more optimistic if we had some top-class talent to come back into the team and change everything around, but those players are not waiting in the wings for Kenny right now.
Lads like Troy Parrott and Adam Idah might be great players in a couple of years, but they are not ready to play senior international football right now and Kenny is finding that out the hard way.
I’m sure the FAI will give Kenny time to implement his plan, but he has already used up some of the goodwill that he had in his favour when he took the job by what we have seen so far.
Let’s hope Ireland can get a positive result against Bulgaria this evening because we all need a lift after watching the games over the last couple of months.