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Saturday 24 August 2019

Campbell sounds warning bell for the FAI

Irish international Megan wants net to be spread far and wide for women's boss

KNOWLEDGE: Irish international Megan Campbell during a coaching session at the FAI Festival of Football. Pic: Sportfile
KNOWLEDGE: Irish international Megan Campbell during a coaching session at the FAI Festival of Football. Pic: Sportfile

Megan Campbell has warned the FAI that there could be consequences if they don't spread the net wide to find a replacement for former Ireland women's manager Colin Bell.

International star Campbell was on promotional duty at a Festival of Football event in Kells, Co Meath yesterday, but she used the opportunity to send a message to the association.

The Manchester City player stressed her belief that Englishman Bell, who left last month to become assistant with Huddersfield's men's team, should be replaced by another 'external' boss.

And she indicated that players would consider their future with Ireland if it turns out to be an in-house appointment. Interviews are due to begin in the next week with applications closed.

Aftermath

In the aftermath of Bell's exit -which included a statement from the departing boss about disputes around demands and his feeling that the pace of growth was "too slow" - there were suggestions that players favoured the promotion of Ireland U-19 manager Dave Connell.

While Campbell was keen to later clarify that her comments were no reflection on any individual, her broad point was clear - she wants the FAI to make a statement of intent with their next move.

The 26-year-old referenced the 2017 battle for better conditions as she outlined her view.

"I think if it goes internal again it's a regression for women's football and what we're after fighting for for the last three years will just all be forgotten about," she asserted.

"I think with Euro 2021 and the hype around the World Cup, it just shows how far women's football has come - and this is the time now to take Irish women's football to the first major finals.

"We need someone who has experience from club or country level, both playing and as a coach, to come in and push and ask for things that will maybe put people in uncomfortable positions."

Campbell elaborated on her reasons for looking beyond the current FAI structures. "For too long, we'd just accepted things. It's an easy cop-out to just keep the job internal."

What would happen if the FAI went that route?

"There will be a lot of unhappy people in camp and a lot of tough decisions may be made by players," replied Campbell.

Did she mean retirements?

"Yeah, possibly. I know personally that with the way we've fought for women's football over the past number of years, I wouldn't be able to stay involved if it was a regression.

"We want to see women's football thrive and grow in Ireland. You see from the World Cup, the nations that have done that consistently in the last number of years. You look at England, how well their league is thriving and you look at our league ... for us to continue to try and push and push, we need to have the best of the best in charge of us."

Bell's demands often ensured he was an unpopular figure but Campbell respected his track record and his bottom-line results.

"He's someone who worked with the likes of Jurgen Klopp, which many people didn't know until he came into our set-up," continued Campbell, who will miss next week's glamour friendly with world champions USA in Pasadena due to club commitments.

"You can see the experience and knowledge he brought into training sessions and matches. The amount of technical improvement in young players over that period with him in charge was unbelievable."

As she spoke, FAI president Donal Conway was nearby on the phone, still engaged in a battle with public perception about his decision to seek re-election this Saturday.

He spoke of a possible meeting with John Treacy yesterday but that didn't come to pass.

Remarks by Shane Ross continue to put the FAI's interim bosses under scrutiny.

Campbell's observations make it clear that pressure will be coming from friendlier faces too.

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