Sporting press conferences are usually quite mundane. Players conscious not to give the media sound bites as the mantra of respecting the opposition and positive squad morale. This press conference was none of the above as Diane Caldwell stole the press conference with her views of former manager Vera Pauw.
“I think there were many areas that could have been better, yes, under her tenure,” Caldwell replied when asked about the professionalism of the set-up under Pauw.
“I think our preparations for games could have been better, physical preparation, opponent analysis, match tactics, in-game match tactics, changes, systems of play.
“I think a group of players that were destined for success came together at the right time,” she added.
Diane Caldwell’s contributions today has shed massive light on the clear breakdown between the playing group, the manager and the FAI association. Caldwell has never shirked anything in her football career and this press conference was no different.
“From my position as a pretty experienced player, I don’t think it was up to the standard expected at international level.
“I think the results, performances that we got, were in spite of Vera being coach.
“We approached her many times about professionalising many aspects, but it was hard to get change.
“She obviously made myself a part of the leadership group that she created a long with a few other players so she gave us that position to use our voice and to try and talk on behalf of the team.
“I think we tried to do that, as a group, the best that we could but obviously at the end of the day she is the coach and she controls everything. You can only say and try to change so much.”
Caldwell’s game minutes under Vera Pauw were mixed in the last twelve months. A fleeting cameo against Nigeria was all that the experienced FC Zurich defender secured in the World Cup tournament. The response was a player clearly frustrated on the setup and her role within the first team side.
The most significant part of this press release and for the FAI was the interaction between then former FAI High Performance director Ruud Dokter and the players. Katie McCabe and Diane Caldwell approached Ruud Dokter after the unsuccessful 2022 Euros qualification campaign.
“After the European campaign, myself and Katie also reflected with Ruud Dokter at the time about certain aspects of things that needed to be improved, changed, but ultimately that fell on deaf ears and she got a contract extension.”
The inference that Vera Pauw was an impediment to the current playing setup and needed to be replaced. FAI and Ruud Dokter thought different. A contract renewal was offered. This quote alone emphasised the gulf in trust between the FAI and the players.
Katie McCabe also in attendance at this press conference at pains to outline that there was no animosity between her and Vera Pauw. Diane Caldwell took one for the team here. McCabe’s comments fell under deaf ears.
The general media present already had their story from Diane Caldwell. The talk about the Nations League and Northern Ireland were a distant second agenda item to discuss during this explosive press conference.
Today shed insight on the Vera Pauw situation. The players clearly had lost trust in Pauw’s management well before the World Cup qualification campaign. The backroom staff under Vera Pauw would have sensed that and perhaps that is why Vera Pauw mentioned the backroom staff not rowing in the same direction comment a few weeks ago with Tony O’Donoghue.
Given Caldwell’s comments, it is no wonder that the FAI officials integrated into the setup given this backdrop. It does raise the question on why Vera Pauw’s contract renewal was drawn out. The parties here were poles apart. It was time post the World Cup to call time on the relationship. FAI have dithered on this contract saga.
After today’s press conference, the players have firmly put themselves in a corner. They feel that they can do better so this Northern Ireland is now a must win for the Republic of Ireland team. Eileen Gleeson is given a free pass here. This fixture is all down to the players. A local derby game to whet the appetite and the general sport media’s attention in the Aviva Stadium. This press conference has added the spice to this local derby fixture. Roll on September 23rd!