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By ESPN Staff

Staunton-Robson pairing seen as gamble for Ireland

DUBLIN, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Irish soccer's ruling body is taking a big risk in appointing former captain Steve Staunton as team manager under the watchful eye of veteran Bobby Robson, Irish newspapers said on Tuesday.

A source at the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) told Reuters on Monday that Staunton, Ireland's most capped international player, would be named as national team manager this week with assistance from former England manager Robson to make up for his lack of management experience.

Staunton, 36, is currently player-coach of English third division club Walsall while Robson, who is 73 next month, has been out of football since being sacked by Newcastle United in August 2004.

The Irish Independent newspaper called it the 'the biggest gamble in Irish soccer history' and said that casting Robson in a mentoring role was not a vote of confidence on the part of the FAI.

'The fact the FAI has appointed Bobby Robson as a 'guiding mentor' to Staunton shouldn't inspire confidence. It suggests the FAI has already lost confidence in the new manager,' the paper said.

The new management team will replace Brian Kerr, who was sacked last October after Ireland failed to qualify for the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany.

Newspaper columnists said Staunton and Robson's individual merits were not in doubt.

Staunton won 102 caps for Ireland and displayed strong leadership and motivational powers during his captaincy of the national side, the Irish Examiner said.

As for Robson, who took England to the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and has also coached Ipswich Town, PSV Eindhoven, Sporting Lisbon and Barcelona, no one was in any doubt as to his managerial prowess.

'Bob's Your Uncle. White knight Robson to watch over Staunton,' read the front-page headline in the Examiner.

But even that newspaper questioned the wisdom of appointing a double act, pointing out that history showed most managerial partnerships were doomed to failure.

'Managers aren't like comedy acts. They don't work in pairs,' read one editorial. 'Having Robson give Staunton the benefit of his experience is a good idea in principle. However, in practice it appears fatal to both.'

Ireland's red-top tabloids also said pairing the two men would be a gamble but managed to sound a more upbeat note.

The Sun newspaper said it was the 'Dream Team' rather than the 'blind date from hell' after former Ireland manager and England World Cup-winning defender Jack Charlton, gave his backing.

'I think the partnership would be excellent,' the paper quoted him as saying. 'Steve Staunton is a good lad. I don't know what qualifications he has got, apart from being a good player. But Bobby Robson is one of the best men in football.'

The new management team's main tasks will be to revitalise a flagging squad and qualify for the 2008 European Championship.

'Certainly this is a gamble. But sometimes the biggest punts bring the greatest rewards,' the Mirror newspaper concluded.