The ten-year anniversary of Steve Staunton's appointment as Ireland manager has forced many to reappraise what feels like the darkest chapter in the history of Irish football. On the Racket yesterday, I made a somewhat jokey case that the Staunton era was better than the Kerr era and is marred largely by two results: Cyprus away (where he was banned from the touchline) and San Marino away (which we won). With the warm glow of qualifying for a 24-team Euros fresh in our mind, it's hard not to look a back on the Staunton years as a sort of elaborate practical joke. The dumb interviews, the 'we're better in March' quotes, the dumbstruck touchline poses, the terrible results.
But as Ireland supporter Stephen Patrick Morrissey might say, the joke isn't funny anymore.
On the pitch, Stan's status as an Ireland legend cannot be questioned. He is undoubtedly one of the best 10 best footballers to play for Ireland since Jack Charlton took over. He is the only Irish footballer to play in every Irish World Cup match. He has 102 Ireland caps. He captained Ireland in the 2002 World Cup.
And yet, perhaps because of recency bias, Stan is mostly remembered for his terrible stint as Ireland manager. Yes, those were farcical times, but Staunton was a 36-year-old with zero management experience when he was thrown in at the deep end to become Ireland manager. He clearly wasn't ready for the job and surely wasn't helped by the fact that his squad was in transition. As was said on the Racket yesterday, his spell was surely no worse than the second term of Trapattoni.
So before we head into this presumably ecstatic summer supporting Ireland, we, as a football-loving people, need to make our peace with the Staunton years and welcome Stan back to the fold.
Here is my proposal - at halftime of one of Ireland's upcoming friendlies, Steve Staunton should be brought out on to the pitch and reintroduced to an adoring public. I have seen all sorts of good and mediocre Ireland players embraced by Ireland fans at the Aviva --- does Stan not deserve something more for his years of soldiering for Ireland that being the butt of a long joke?
Stan keeps a low profile these days and rarely makes appearances in the Irish media. His last big public interview was with BT Sport in January 2014. He said he was interested in a return to management and said he would do it all over again.
Okay no one's ready for that, but Steve Staunton should not be a pariah around Irish football. His time as a warrior for Ireland exceeds his time as a shite manager for Ireland.
Hashtag forgive Stan.