John Fallon: Eriksen revival the story of season

On June 12 last year, Christian Eriksen died on the pitch. He was gone from the world for five minutes, in his own words, a world watching his life slip away live on television.
John Fallon: Eriksen revival the story of season

Brentford's Christian Eriksen during the Premier League match at The Brentford Community Stadium. Photo credit: John Walton/PA Wire.

Football is currently immersed within peak nostalgia – between the FAI's Centenary, 20 years on from Saipan or 30 years of the Premier League – but one upcoming anniversary deserves special acclaim.

On June 12 last year, Christian Eriksen died on the pitch. He was gone from the world for five minutes, in his own words, a world watching his life slip away live on television.

The reactions of those closest to the scene during the European Championship match spoke of the situation's gravity. Denmark's players linked arms to preserve the dignity of their teammate, lying prone and undergoing resuscitation. Andreas Christiensen was in tears, Thomas Delaney similarly distraught. lifting his jersey over his face.

Others in the circle, Kasper Schmeichel and Simon captain Kjaer, could bring themselves to face the patient, yet helpless anymore to intervene. Team medics, brothers Anders and Morten Boese, took over and with the aid of CPR and defibrillator shocks, saved Eriksen's life.

In comparative terms, it was the Roy Keane moment of the past year. Every football supporter, or sports fan, can recall their whereabouts on that summery Saturday evening.

Denmark's game against Finland wasn't the most glamorous of that weekend's sporting bonanza but the scenes at the stadium, particularly Schmeichel and Kjaer comforting Eriksen's wife Sabrina on the sideline, coupled with reaction in the television studios, turned it into a gripping watch.

The life he salvaged would never be the same again for the player. During those initial hours and days in the Copenhagen hospital, returning to the pitch wasn't countenanced but the wonders of modern science made it possible. Not everybody is convinced a comeback to his original level can be achieved safely while he is fitted with an ICD.

The device, an implantable cardioverter defibrillator, was surgically inserted to resume his heart back into regular rhythm if a repeat were to occur in the future.

Italy's ban on their use forced his departure from Inter Milan after two years but there was hardly a queue of suitors lining up for a player previously linked with the likes of Manchester United. He was still only 29 when seeking a fresh challenge.

Enter a club with a conscience. If Brentford were a national team, they'd have to be Denmark given the parallels in values.

Manager Thomas Franks and the Director of football who laid the foundations for Eriksen's signing in February before his departure, Rasmus Ankersen , are Danes and club owner Matthew Benham added Danish club Midtjylland to his club portfolio in 2014.

There's a purity to the club enjoying their first top-flight campaign since 1947 so lacking in the majority of their competitors. Analytical whizz Benham built his route to the Premier League by profiting on purchases they'd developed.

Sales of Neal Maupay, Saïd Benrahma and Ollie Watkins banked them an aggregate surplus of £60m, ensuring they no longer have to lose their best players. Replicating the German model of modest ticket pricing for their new stadium was insisted upon by Benham.

The recipe worked, for backboned by stellar home form, they belied their status of the lowest payers by finishing 13th, well clear of the relegation zone many tipped them to inhabit.

Deciding to take a risk on free agent Eriksen when others baulked was also vindicated.

Of the 10 matches the midfielder started, the Bees won seven. The highpoint was undoubtedly his influence in the 4-1 hammering of Chelsea at Stamford Bridge six weeks ago. Arguably more wholesome was the hug Norwich City's loanee Brandon Williams gave Eriksen when he belatedly realised the identity of the opponent he was tussling with on the ground.

That Eriksen was back on the pitch, let alone lording it, has to be the feelgood story of the English Premier League season just finished.

Every euphoric competitor is tainted to some degree.

Exhilarating as Manchester City's title win on Sunday was, the spectre of sportswashing lurks. Amnesty International continues to call out the club's Abu Dhabi owners about human rights abuses in their native land and the slew of leaks related to treading the Financial Fair Play rules aren't going away.

The far-east also came to the north-east over the season, somewhat blighting the turnaround Newcastle United engineered to avoid the drop. Backed by their new owners, the Saudi Public Investment Fund, Newcastle were the biggest spenders of any European club in the January transfer. New Chairman Yasir Al-Rumayyan received a loud St James' Park reception not seen since the capture of Alan Shearer in 1996. "I'm still a sheet metal worker's son from Newcastle," the local hero said, chiming with the fanbase's working class roots.

Chelsea's Russian roulette finally met its end from sanctions imposed on Roman Abramovich due to the invasion of Ukraine, as did the gravy train to Everton from their commercial links with Alisher Usmanov.

American owners can't be spared culpability on the rap sheet either. Not that long ago Liverpool were aligned to the breakaway Super League hierarchy and Manchester United's decline on the pitch is superseded only by the amount of debt the Glazer heap on the club.

All of that ugliness is before we highlight Harry Kane reconnecting with the Tottenham fans he agitated to dessert last summer for Manchester City.

That's just one example of an episode from the season people prefer to forget. Eriksen's resurrection, literally and metaphorically, should never be.

Canham the start of recruitment blitz by FAI

Marc Canham’s imminent arrival as the FAI’s new Director of Football is one of several new recruits set for Abbotstown.

It is understood Canham will serve a notice period in his employment with the English Premier League before taking up the vacancy described by FAI chief executive Jonathan Hill as “critical” to the future.

He’s not wrong there. Reaction to the identity of the new appointee across various strands has been lukewarm, to say the least, particularly as fellow Englishman Hill pinpointed an understanding of the culture around Irish football is uppermost in the selection criteria. We can expect a bedding-in period, like his two Dutch predecessors, on that front.

Canham, 39, will be joined around the Senior Leadership Team table by a Director of Marketing and Communications, believed to be female and from an established Irish retail brand. Consultant Murray Barnett has been overseeing the brief on an interim consultancy basis, recently assigning Kieran Crowley and Gareth Maher to full responsibilities for the men’s and women’s teams respectively, with Cathal Dervan’s position remaining unchanged.

The association has advertised for a standalone executive solely for domestic coverage. It’s part of a broader departure to create a League of Ireland department, evidenced by the recent recruitment of Cliff Henry as the league’s operations manager.

Waterford close in on snaring Ryan from Wexford

An impeccable return of five wins in a row had raised the possibility of David Breen and Gary Hunt staying in charge of Waterford but they're intent on appointing a permanent boss.

The local pair stepped up from the backroom staff when Blues Chairman Richard Forrest moved Ian Morris after Cork City's win at the RSC opened up a nine-point gap to the summit.

They've clawed two points back on City but none on Galway United, the new occupiers of the sole promotion spot from the First Division.

Helping Breen and Gary Hunt around the club during the transition has been Tobias Phoenix, an experienced operator from the English lower leagues. He had worked as executive advisor to Macclesfield Town boss Sol Campbell during a short-lived eight-month introduction to management, moving up to Director of Football.

Phoenix was in February 2020 headhunted by Bolton Wanderers as Director of Football Operations, a stint lasting only 10 months but one rescued by his appointment of Ian Evatt as manager.

He's been at the coalface of a similar recruitment process for the Blues, assessing the credentials of the applicants and meeting the preferred choice. While contenders in the UK were considered, Wexford boss Ian Ryan is in pole position to switch roles in the south-east. He could be on the RSC bench for Friday's visit of Treaty United.

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