Marc Canham is appointed as the FAI’s new Director of Football

Marc Canham is set to become the FAI’s new Director of Football, beating out competition from John Morling and Pat Fenlon in the final stages of recruitment for the revamped post.

The vacancy has more seniority than the High Performance Director position she replaced and still takes precedence over senior managers Stephen Kenny and Vera Pauw, but with a broader remit that includes non-elite aspects.

The Englishman comes from the English Premier League, where he has held various titles, most recently as Director of Coaching for the past 10 months.

This role confers responsibility for the “strategic development of coaching and managerial development in English professional football”. His experience of working with Premier League clubs on academy structures while the League of Ireland seeks to launch its own crusade in this area was seen as crucial to his selection.

In this regard, the FAI also recently drew on the expertise of Nic Coward, former Premier League general secretary and English FA board member, who has recently made regular visits to the FAI headquarters in Abbotstown and to clubs.

Aged 39, Canham’s footballing career consisted of six appearances with Colchester United before spending a decade away from the league, mainly at Bath City.

His international experience included 38 appearances and 14 goals for England’s futsal team, a representative side who no longer operates Ireland following a culling by the former FAI amid financial pressures unleashed by their misguided premium ticketing venture.

Canham’s transition into coaching began at two Bristol clubs, Rovers and City, before spending 11 years with the Football Association of England, where current FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill was also on the staff.

The Premier League came to his current position of Club Support Manager, Head of Club Support, Premier League Youth Working Group and Head of Coaching in 2013 and across a variety of portfolios for five years.

It will be fascinating to see how Canham’s arrival is taken. Given that the two Dutchmen, Wim Koevermans and Ruud Dokter, had taken over the post with limited success since 2008, there was a widespread feeling that the time was near for an Irishman to fill the vacancy.

If not a local then certainly a person with intimate knowledge of Irish football’s unique culture given that it is fragmented along with competition for emerging talent from other sports and the need to co-exist within that sphere.

“I think it’s someone who understands Irish football and player development,” Hill said in February of his ideal candidate.

“It cannot be that we need a specifically Irish solution to the Irish challenges. Does this person have to be Irish? Not necessarily.

“But that will be part of the recruitment process. We will find the best person but they need to understand the context of Irish football.”

Hill addressed the forthcoming announcement in his address to delegates at the General Assembly on Monday. “It’s an important appointment for us, someone who will review all of our structures from cradle to grave.

“That means grassroots football, player paths for our more talented players and the young players who just want to play football to the best of their ability in the best facilities. Then on to the structure of the League of Ireland Academy and our international teams.”

The final interview panel consisted of President Gerry McAnaney, Chair Roy Barrett and Bonner as Chair of the High Performance and International Committee.

Morling seemed a perfect fit. He left the FAI on his own in 2012 after seven years as player development manager and Under-17 national team coach, moving to his native England to take up the job of academy director at Brighton and Hove Albion.

He left the Seagulls just three months ago and was considered the preferred choice of his former FAI chief Packie Bonner, who returned to the organization last year as an independent director with responsibility for high-performance teams and international teams.

Former Bohemians and Shelbourne title winner Pat Fenlon – currently general manager to Irish League champions David Healy – was also interviewed.

Speculations linking centurion legend John O’Shea to the plum job turned out to be just that.

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