Has the luck of the Irish in English football run out?

Kevin O’Neill is an Irish football writer who knows his subject. In a new book, he traces the declining role of Irish players in England’s elite clubs. Since his research covered plenty of Sunderland-related content, we invited him to introduce his project ….


With this book,
I recall better times for the Irish in England’s leading clubs, largely before the introduction of the Premier League and subsequent influx of foreign players.

Sunderland supporters are fully aware of their club’s own strong links to the Emerald Isle, a bond that continues today with Aiden McGeady and John O’Shea members of Simon Grayson’s squad. Among the Irish stars whose careers I review are Niall Quinn, properly seen as a Sunderland hero, and the man he later – when chairman – appointed as manager, Roy Keane.

There’s an interview too with another former Sunderland boss, Martin O’Neill, and former club defender Mark Rossiter – [he didn’t play much for us but was there when I saw us beat Arsenal 3-2 in a League Cup game at Highbury – Ed] as well as an interview with Sunderland fan Martyn McFadden, editor in chief [crikey Martyn, that’s a grand title – Ed] of A Love Supreme.

My origins are in the Irish midlands town of Athlone, a place familiar to Sunderland supporters through pre-season visits.

Firstly, I wish to thank everyone who helped me get the book to this stage, and particularly past and present players who gave me their time. They provided invaluable insight and experience into what it’s like for Irish players, young and old, to be part of English football.

The result, I hope, is a factual, hard-hitting account of what has happened to the Irish in top-class English football over the past 20 years.

I try to find out how and why their fortunes have deteriorated so dramatically – and quickly – while also recalling better times when the Irish triumphed in England with great regularity.

Through a series of face-to-face interviews with current and retired players, the book describes how young Irish teenagers fend for themselves in the cut-throat world of Academy football and considers those who have fallen by the wayside in their pursuit of fame and footballing fulfilment in England. I pose the question of whether the Irish can ever again prosper at English football’s most successful clubs.

* Where Have All the Irish Gone? The Sad Demise of Ireland’s Once Relevant Footballers will be released by http://www.pitchpublishing.co.ukon October 16 2017, is priced at £12.99, and will be available to purchase at Amazon, Waterstones and various other book stores and platforms to be confirmed.

The publishers say the book tells a story of dramatic decline, an ‘ultimate riches-to-rags affair’ in which Irish players have largely become irrelevant at the top English clubs.

The author can be reached on Twitter @kevoneillwriter

Andy Reid on Keano and O’Neill, Defoe and Moyes – and Sunderland spirit

Andy Reid:by darryl_se7/

So Salut! Sunderland was told the former SAFC and Republic of Ireland midfielder Andy Reid, speaking exclusively to 888sport, was happy to answer our questions as part of the interview. He had some interesting things to say about enjoying his time at Sunderland, playing for Ireland and observing our current plight.

Read moreAndy Reid on Keano and O’Neill, Defoe and Moyes – and Sunderland spirit

The Euros, gone but not forgotten (though I’m trying)

John McCormick: bored
John McCormick. bored by the Euros

I was originally against expanding the European Championship. I thought bringing in “small” (in footballing terms, I intend no disrespect) countries would lead to a bloated, overlong tournament. I was right wasn’t I? Having 16 qualifiers from 24 led to stultifying games where the object was not to lose, rather than to play scintillating football, and an extra round that really wasn’t necessary, except for the money merchants and TV companies.

Read moreThe Euros, gone but not forgotten (though I’m trying)

James McClean: the good causes that profit from his supposed villainy

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James McClean’s spell as pantomime villain has come to an end, though we can be sure this is a role he will go on filling from time to time. Out of the sow’s ear of a couple of the controversies has come the odd silk purse …

Read moreJames McClean: the good causes that profit from his supposed villainy

Singing the praises of David Meyler, Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland

David MeylerImage: Peadar O’Sullivan

I may have mentioned already that Salut! Sunderland has a habit of going on tour. It is a tour that takes us to the new site ByFarTheGreatestTeam, where some of our writers have already been showcased, while Stephen Goldsmith pops up in all sorts of places (most recently the Anfield Wrap) and Monsieur Salut sheds his alter ego to write under his real name for ESPN.

Read moreSinging the praises of David Meyler, Sunderland and the Republic of Ireland

An open letter to James McClean – plus the winners of tickets for Liverpool

Jake has laptop issues. This is how he previewed last season's game

As the international break meanders on, three things are on Sunderland supporters’ minds: the hope that Adam Johnson’s injury has no effect in his availability, the even stronger hope that we get our first Premier win of the season at home to Liverpool on Saturday and the James McClean tweet saga (of which more, indirectly, later) …

Read moreAn open letter to James McClean – plus the winners of tickets for Liverpool

Salut! reflects: has James McClean burned his bridges with Republic of Ireland?

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McClean Twitter rant sure to throw Republic of Ireland future into doubt

James McClean should maybe think about handing his phone and laptop to his big pal David Meyler when he has something to say. Meyler providing a vetting service may be in the best interests of McClean’s career after yet another ill advised outburst on Twitter last night. Following on from what some described an offensive joke last month, McClean has now used the social networking site to share his continuing discontent with his autonomy in the Ireland set up.

Read moreSalut! reflects: has James McClean burned his bridges with Republic of Ireland?

James McClean, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland: eligibility and divided sympathies

IrelandImage: NASA Goddard

Monsieur Salut writes: it began, so far as Salut! Sunderland was concerned, as a straightforward defence of James McClean’s decision to make himself available for Republic of Ireland selection and not Northern Ireland. It provoked the longest and most animated discussion thread in months. As a gesture of goodwill, I have removed an anecdote from the original article; it dealt with lowlife sectarianism but although the incident occurred at Windsor Park, home of NI football, it concerned a club, not international, game. Otherwise, I stand by the thrust of my article. But I did invite Andrew Rodgers, easily the most rational of my critics from the other side of the Irish Sea, to set out his own views …

Read moreJames McClean, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland: eligibility and divided sympathies

James McClean: the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and a festering row

Jake adapts Tony Roffe's photographic magic to humour Salut! Sunderland

There is a good little debate in progress at this site on the rights, as I see it, and wrongs, as supporters of the Northern Ireland team have argued, of James McClean choosing to play senior international football for the Republic of Ireland.

The original article can be seen at this link: https://safc.blog/2012/06/shades-of-green-northern-ireland-should-respect-mccleans-republic-of-ireland-choice/

Read moreJames McClean: the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland and a festering row