Perth: League Can’t Afford To Be ‘Out Of Sight, Out Of Mind’
Vinny Perth believes that the League of Ireland needs to become front and centre in the minds of football fans around the country again – or risk falling by the wayside.
The FAI are due to present SSE Airtricity League clubs with a financial plan on Thursday that will, hopefully, pave the way for a return to action and the Dundalk manager said it was critical that some sort of resolution was found.
“It’s imperative that we try as best as we can to get football back up and running in this country,” he said, “because the league is just not strong enough to take such a long break.
“If we’re not careful, it’ll become a case of ‘out of sight, out of mind’. If people get out of the habit of turning up to League of Ireland games, they might find it very hard to get back into it so we’ve got to work as hard as we can to get back.”
Another date looming large is next Wednesday, June 17th, when UEFA’s Executive Committee is expected to reveal their plans for the Champions League qualifying rounds.
The League of Ireland is the only summer-based league in Europe that has not committed to a return thus far and Perth said he was concerned that his players could enter the first qualifying round draw with no domestic league action behind them.
“That would be a massive blow,” he said. “One advantage we’ve had over the past number of years and one of the reasons our results have improved since we’ve moved to summer football is that we haven’t struggled with fitness levels.
“Europe is huge for the League of Ireland and the coefficient is important,” he continued. “The only clubs that seem to care about Europe are the clubs that are in it but people shouldn’t see it that way because you never know who will qualify for it.
“We have to use it as a tool to improve our league so it’s important that the four clubs involved in it are prepared as best they can for the qualifying rounds. There’s no doubt it’s a concern that we might not have any league games before that but we’ll just have to deal with what comes at us and adapt to it.”
The Dundalk squad took part in their second training session of the week on Wednesday morning and Perth said that it was great to see some sort of normality around Oriel Park again.
“It’s great having everyone back,” he said. “Today was a more football-based session. The fitness levels of the players mean we can speed things up a bit and get them back on the pitch kicking balls.
“There’s a lot of rustiness in terms of players being on the ball. You just cannot replicate a match situation, no matter what you do, but we’re back at it and that will come.”
The coaching staff’s biggest concern has been trying to hold the players back from shooting and striking the ball.
“We’ve learned from what has been happening across the continent and in England where there’s been a lot of injuries,” said Perth.
“It’s been three months so we have to ease them back. The players have done a lot of work on their own and that puts them in a great starting position but we have to be really careful with them over the next few weeks.”
One player who hasn’t returned this week is Scottish attacker Cammy Smith, whose loan deal with Dundee United has expired.
“Cammy needs a bit of clarity at his end,” said Perth. “It has been difficult because of what has been going on so we will see how that plays out over the next few weeks.”
After spending pre-season at the club, American Taner Dogan has linked up with the squad again and he will be joined in the next fortnight by compatriot, Josh Gatt, who featured in the friendly against Longford Town back in February.
“Taner is back training with us now and we’re hoping that Josh will join in with us over the next week or so. The squad is more or less the same size as what it was last season but we have rotated it to include more forward players.
“Having them in would enable us to play some 11 v 11 games,” he added. “I’m fighting with the medical department and the strength and conditioning team to allow those type of games as quickly as possible.
“To a point, playing games like that is still false, but with the quality in our squad, they’re games that could help us to prepare for Europe and they’re games that people would pay to watch.”
The Dundalk boss is also hoping to move a step closer to appointing a new assistant in the coming weeks after Ruaidhri Higgins’s departure to the Irish international set-up.
“We are looking to bring somebody in and we have met with a couple of different people,” said Perth. “It’s such an important role so being able to meet people on a one-to-one basis is crucial and we haven’t been able to do that just yet.
“It’s still very early and we have lots of time on our side but, hopefully, this day week we’ll be a lot clearer in terms of what we’re doing.”
Pictures: Ciaran Culligan