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Ex-Canadian International at Centre of Irish Storm

Mark Bircham fired by Waterford FC just days prior to crucial promotion/relegation play-off match

Former Canadian international Mark Bircham alleges he was fired by league of Ireland club Waterford United because he refused to select the owner’s son.

Former Canadian international Mark Bircham is at the centre of a storm in League of Ireland football.

There are only two games left of the season; Sunday’s showpiece FAI Cup Final and tomorrow night’s promotion/relegation play-off which sees Waterford FC face University College Dublin (UCD).

Of those it’s the latter which concerns Bircham, capped 17 times by Canada at senior international level, who claims he was sacked because he refused to guarantee selection of the owner Richard Forrest’s son.

Bircham made the comments on Talksport after being fired just three days before his former Waterford team were due to face UCD.

“Our relationship was strained because I’m not a yes man,” Bircham told Talksport on Thursday.

“The owner has his son [George Forrest] at the club and I didn’t play him. About a week ago, I told [chairman] Mitch Cowley that he wouldn’t play for me next year because I’d be bringing in better players and he might not be on the bench in the play-off.

“I’m not part of the future because I won’t play his son. I’m a man of principle and it has cost me managing the play-off final, but I’d do the same again.”

Bircham in Canadian colours during his playing days....

Bircham’s dismissal on Tuesday came an hour after he tweeted he’d been given a week-long suspension following a text-exchange disagreement with the owner, effectively disrupting the club’s play-off plans by counting him out.

He then told local radio station WLR that he first learnt that he had been sacked when he read the club’s statement on Twitter and claimed he had been forbidden from contacting his players by the club’s owner.

That prompted a further statement late on Tuesday afternoon from Waterford, this time a personal one from Forrest, in which he said he was “extremely disappointed to have had to make this tough decision we did today especially given the huge match we have facing us on Friday”.

Waterford have brought in Ian Hendon who played a handful of games once upon a time for Tottenham to assist the coaching staff prepare the team for Friday’s play-off at Richmond Park. Hendon also previously managed Barnet and Leyton Orient in England’s lower divisions.

Waterford FC is to stability what King Herod was to babies. Bircham was their fifth manager in twelve months, taking over in May with the side bottom of the 10-team Premier Division. The former Millwall and QPR coach oversaw improvement with six victories and a draw in the next dozen games. Waterford actually finished 27 points ahead of bottom side Longford Town but two shy of automatic survival.

Waterford to thrive, or shrink, in adversity? You choose....

FOOTNOTE: English-born Mark Bircham’s Canadian eligibility was due to a grandfather born in Winnipeg. His debut for Canada was in Belfast in 1999 against Northern Ireland (1-1). Bircham scored Canada’s goal only 8 minutes after coming off the sub’s bench. At the time he was the only player ever to have played for a country without actually visiting it (and scoring) at the time of winning his first cap.