Vera Pauw: 'Going abroad, whatever it takes, is not my philosophy - you have to play to develop'

Sat, Aug 29 2020

Ireland sit top of the group, one point clear of Germany, with three games remaining. Credit: Eddie Lennon (ETPhotos)

Vera Pauw stressed the importance of regular game-time, regardless of the level, in player development as Ireland hone in on a historic, first-ever qualification for a major tournament.

The Republic of Ireland manager was in positive mood as she announced a provisional 30-women squad for the crucial European Qualifier against Germany next month.

Group leaders Ireland will finally get their Euro 2021 qualification campaign back underway with a crucial trip to play Germany on September 19th as the Covid-19 restrictions have finally been eased.

The real tests still lie ahead for Pauw's side though as two of their three remaining group games are against eight-time European Championship winners and two-time World champions Germany.

Germany lie just one point behind Ireland in second place, have a game in hand and remain justified favourites to finish the group as winners.

Pauw acknowledges that, despite their impressive run to the top of the table so far, there is still a huge amount of work to be done to achieve qualification for the finals in England.

The current squad are dotted around the world and, depending on how things progress, Pauw could see players reporting for international duty from nine different countries.

This Pauw doesn’t mind, but one thing she repeatedly emphasised was the importance of each player getting regular game-time with their clubs.

This, she feels, will not only benefit the players individually in terms of their footballing development but will also be of huge benefit to the Ireland squad as a collective too.

“The key for me is that the best players do everything they can for themselves as long as it is the right path they are taking," explained Pauw.

"Just going abroad for the sake of trying something different is not always a step forward.

“If you are playing regularly in the league you are in and then you go to a huge league and straight away you are on the bench and you never really play, that does not help you to develop as a player.

“If you aren't playing regularly, you cannot perform at your very top level despite everything you are doing repeatedly in training.

“The players within the squad who are currently playing regularly and getting lots of game time are a perfect example of this.

“They have shown the heights that can be reached if you are careful with the path you take and make sure it is the right path and for the right reasons.

“They have gone on to become top athletes, like Katie McCabe for example. She has been amazing in the steps she has made and the choices she has made to get where she is now.

“She was one of the players that ended up on the bench with not very much game time before.

“At a certain point she sat down and then decided to go to Glasgow on loan to play, so that she could come back and hopefully star for Arsenal and now look at how she is doing.

“If she had stayed at Arsenal and not played, she wouldn’t have been able to develop but look at where her path has led her to. Amazing really.

“The principle of just going abroad, whatever it takes, that’s not my philosophy. My philosophy is, you need to find the best place for you to play.

“You have to play. If you don’t play then it’s extremely difficult to develop and continue to reach new levels.”

Another shining and much more recent beneficiary of this important pathway is new recruit Alli Murphy. Murphy is Texas-born and qualifies for Ireland through her Limerick born grandparents.

She recently joined London City Lionesses but the 26-year-old has already had stints playing football in five different countries, including the Netherlands and Iceland.

Pauw was actually given the nod about Murphy's Irish eligibility by Dubliner and head coach of the London Lionesses, Lisa Fallon,

Funnily enough, the Dutchwoman had actually worked with Murphy previously during her time as head coach with Houston Dash.

"Actually I am a little bit embarrassed. Alli Murphy was a player at Houston Dash when I was there and I should have known that she had an Irish passport but it completely just went out of my mind.

"It was Lisa Fallon who then told me that she had Alli Murphy in London on her team and that she has an Irish passport. And I thought ‘Oh my word, that’s true’.

“So we picked up contact. We have seen all her videos, you can see her highlight video on YouTube, which straight away impresses and tells you a lot.

“Whether she will make the line-up we don’t know yet but she is definitely an addition to the squad. At Houston, she missed the football side at a technical level but we could see she had a real talent.

“We arranged for her to go to the Netherlands, where the technical part of the game is the main focus and she improved so much.

“The Dutch game misses a lot in women’s football but the technical part is very well developed as you can see in the Dutch national team. So Alli then went to Zwolle and that gave her the boost to get to the level she is playing at right now.

“It’s amazing to see the amount of hard work she has put in and how she well she took on the coaching we provided her with.

“She went to Iceland then to get back into the fighting spirit, which is what’s really missing in the Netherlands, and these steps have made her a better player overall.

“That is another great example of a player who has made the right choices as a football player and has gone on to improve so much and gone to the next level.

“She decided to sit down, analyze the situation and made choices for herself that along with a lot of hard work has made her a better player. She has done that so well and it really shows.”

Pauw extended her current contract as head coach of Ireland in recent days and is in positive but bullish mood that there a huge few weeks await for the group.

“We put everything into qualifying and that’s the only thing that counts. This is the moment for us, and I’m so lucky to be part of this process because the players are ready to make the step.

“You can see it in the choices. The will from Denise O’Sullivan to help influence that she could come over here, instead of playing there for the coming three months and missing out on the games.

“That shows everybody’s determination and we will be ready when the games come around."