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The Team That Jack Built
by Paul Rowan
This book by Paul Rowan was first published in 1994 following Ireland's second appearance in the World Cup finals under Irish team manager Jack Charlton.
"Having paid an important part in the past two World Cups, the Republic of Ireland is the most successful international side in these islands. These highly organised and well-focused professionals are a far cry from the Irish football teams of the recent past, a hastily gathered group of players in ill-fitting strip who watched, flat-footed as the rest of the soccer world passed them by. The Team That Jack Built tells the story for the first time of how this remarkable transformation came about."
Proud Irishmen or Mercenaries?
"It describes how, after years in the wilderness, the football authorities in Ireland were dragged into the world of modern international sport by their own frustrated players and a number of tough, high-profile managers, culminating in the triumphant reign of Jack Charlton.
The book examines what some observers believe to be the main reason for the success of the current team: the recruitment of a a raft of British-born players who qualify to play for Ireland under generous FIFA laws on eligibility.
Are these players mercenaries, as some have alleged, or do they regard playing for the country of their forbears as their birthright? The Team That Jack Built is a book about ambition, sport and nationality, and the unique green blend."
Irish Football History - Beginning in the 1960's
Rowan begins his account of the rise of the Irish football team under Jack Charlton back in the dreary days of the 1960's and 1970's. A time when Ray Treacy claimed that Ireland and Poland played each other so often that he and Poland's Jan Tomaszewski were like "... blood brothers, and most of the players knew each other by the first names. We'd kick in down the same end before that match." Ireland has played friendly matches against Poland on 21 occasions - more than any other team. Rowan suggests that the FAI matches against Poland were arranged for the commercial imperatives of FAI officials rather than for football reasons. The FAI does not emerge with much credit in The Team That Jack Built.
Rowan deals with the doomed John Giles / Shamrock Rovers project at Glenmalure Park in the 1970/80's that involved other internationals Eamon Dunphy and Paddy Mulligan. At the same time Johnny Giles was also the player / manager of the Republic of Ireland that involved some close calls and near things when it came to qualification for major football finals.
This is followed by the Eoin Hand era that started off so positively but ended in humiliation. During Hand's time as Irish manager a new low for attendance at a full Irish international match was set when just 6,000 turned up in Dalymount Park for a match against Mexico. It was also the time when Eamon Dunphy began his attacks on Irish football managers as a soccer pundit.
Somewhat ironically he began with his former neighbour from Drumcondra, and former Irish team mate, Hand. A particular low point for the Hand era was a 1-4 defeat by Denmark at Lansdowne Road (now the Aviva Stadium) during a 1986 World Cup qualifier match.
Jack Charlton Arrives
Paul Rowan gives a detailed account of the strange circumstances of the appointment of Jack Charlton as Irish soccer team manager. Through a quirk of fate and manoeuvrings within the FAI, Ireland ended up with a manager that most of the election committee did not want when the meeting convened. Charlton's first match was a friendly 0-1 loss to Wales at Lansdowne Road. An unremarkable start but was marked by debuts by John Aldridge and Ray Houghton of Oxford United. Both qualified to play for Ireland under the somewhat controversial Granny Rule. A FIFA ruling that Ireland was to exploit top the full during the Charlton years.
After an inauspicious start Ireland topped Group 7 in the Euro 1988 qualifiers and made its' debut in a major football final competition against England in Stuttgart in June at the Euro 88 finals. Employing Charlton's direct football style Ireland went on to qualify for two more major tournaments - the 1990 World Cup in Italy and the 1994 World Cup in 1994. Paul Rowan covers these in a fair degree of detail but his focus is mainly on the environment and backdrop that pertained during the Charlton era as Irish soccer manager. Unfortunately for Rowan the book was published just after the 1994 World Cup. If he had waited until 1996 he could have neatly book-ended the Charlton years with that emotional night in December 1995 at Anfield when the Charlton era ended in a noble defeat to Holland in the 1996 Euro qualifier play-off match.
The Team That Jack Built - Summary
The Team That Jack Built is a hugely interesting and well written account of Irish football from the 1960's to the mid-1990's. In some ways Paul Rowan's coverage of the football part of the Charlton years is less interesting than the historical context and off-field aspects that he covers. His insights into the FAI are far from flattering and there is the sense that the success enjoyed by Jack Charlton and the Irish team occurred despite, and not because of the FAI. The Team That Jack Built is an interesting and well-researched read and is recommended.
About Paul Rowan
Paul Rowan was born, raised and educated in Dublin, Ireland. He has worked a journalist in his home city and in Australia and Hong Kong. His promising amateur football career ended after a car accident in Sydney. Paul Rowan has worked for the BBC World Service and as a sports reporter for the Sunday Times.
The Team That Jack Built
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