Sadlier doesn't envy international managers making team selections

Sat, Jun 09 2018

Richie Sadlier believes that managers face a tough choice when it comes to finalising squads for major tournaments.

He was speaking on a warm and sunny afternoon in Dublin 4, as RTÉ unveiled their punditry line-up ahead of the start of this summer’s World Cup. As various sporting stars revealed their memories of past campaigns, it brought to mind the road to Japan and South Korea in 2002. It may have been overshadowed by events in Saipan but several players were left disappointed to not make the final twenty-three.

One of these was Sadlier. An outstanding schoolboys goalscoring record led to him being signed by Millwall. It was not long after joining the south London club, that he scored against Spain in the third-placed play-off in the 1997 Under-18’s championship. He maintained that eye for goal as he broke into the first-team and he helped the side gain promotion to what was then called Division One. Capped against Russia as the squad was being assembled, he was fancied to be on the plane heading east. Indeed, he was tipped as being a future star of the side.

Alas, it was not to be. A hip injury restricted his movement and forced Mick McCarthy into excluding him. That injury stayed with him for the next few years and eventually made him retire at twenty-four. Thankfully, he stayed involved with the game and is one of the more insightful members of the current panel.

Interestingly, he sympathises with the 32 managers who have had to cut down their squads over the past week. He stated, “You hear interviews from managers after a cup final, or a Champions League final, and the most difficult part was trying to contact someone who has been really loyal to them. To let them know they are not selected for it.”

At least on such an occasion, the whole squad can come together and be with one another afterwards. For an international tournament, it’s even tougher.

“They may have been around for a number of years, and played an important part in qualifying, but on this particular occasion they have to miss out. This might be poor form, an injury or the emergence of someone else taking their position. You have to leave them out as a result. You can only bring twenty -three.”

Of course, some countries have a vast array of high level players at their disposal. This is a luxury that others, such as Ireland, cannot afford. “There are some countries with a depth of talent and a list of options that we here in Ireland do not possess. We would grab such choices with both hands if we could.”

Sadlier puts it down to the knocks which are almost part and parcel of being a footballer. “Of course, footballers are used to disappointments. They have all played in a big game which they have lost, or they have played in a tournament which didn’t go their way. We have all missed chances or made mistakes. Dealing with difficulty is part of the job.”

It may perhaps be easier to cope with as a younger player, especially one at a bigger club. Time is generally on their side. For a more senior player, such a decision can be their final opportunity though. Sadlier mentions that fact. “Unless you are thirty-four or thirty-five, you have a chance in four years to go for it again.”