Kenny's view is refreshing
By David Dunne 10.04.2020
Republic of Ireland boss, Stephen Kenny, yesterday chaired his first press conference since replacing Mick McCarthy last Saturday. The new manager shared his hopes and fears of his dream job, or rather in typical Kenny style – the sharing of hopes, rather than fears.
Speaking from his home in Dundalk, the 48-year-old gave the impression that we now have a manager who not only cares about results but also how he achieves them. On a fraction of the salary of his predecessors, Kenny is a symbol that the era of placing expensive band-aids over the gaping wounds of Irish soccer is well and truly over.
Not wanting to give John Delaney too much credit on this one, considering the FAI’s finances, this was probably born out of necessity rather than the cultivation of long-term planning.
In recent times the Green Army have had thrust upon them, managers of yesteryear, with their best days well and truly behind them. For top dollar, each appointment has relied upon their reputation of past glories to lead Ireland to immediate success – albeit short-term and with little regard to substance. I don’t wish to to be unkind to Giovani Trapattoni, Martin O’Neill or Mick McCarthy – after all, they were only carrying out the orders handed down to them by their paymasters.
Stephen Kenny has given us all hope with how his under 21’s have fared thus far. The former Dundalk manager has the team playing without fear and very much with style and substance, and whilst the senior side spluttered through their respective quest for Euro qualification, Kenny’s Kids were blowing away the opposition in theirs.
In an assessment of his new team, Stephen Kenny was unrepentant in his positivity with ‘we can play football’ being the general overall message. The Irish boss is an advocate of playing a brand of football that appeals to the masses - whilst encouraging children to aspire to one day line out for the Boys in Green and this can only be a good thing.
Here is a rundown of what the Republic of Ireland manager had to say on the various topics put to him in yesterday’s conference:
On previous managers bemoaning the lack of quality in their respective squads:
“I’m not going to sit here and criticise anyone, particularly the previous managers. I just didn’t like that people had that opinion that it was in our DNA to play long ball and that our players had the characteristics over the generations to play in a more direct way. I disagreed with that fundamentally and I still continue to disagree with it. But you have to try and prove it otherwise.”
On the issue with Robbie Keane, the new manager’s first possible challenge to his authority:
“I have huge respect for Robbie Keane as a player. . . but I have learned as a manager what works for me and what doesn’t work for me. You learn through your experiences and you must have the ability to pick your own backroom team, for one.”
On the importance of Ireland’s style of play enticing punters into their seats and inspiring future generations of Irish soccer stars:
“It’s a short life and I’ve only got one chance, one opportunity here,” he said. “I will ensure that I have conviction in the way I set the team up. The ambition will be that we will dominate possession in a lot of the games.
“I can’t promise that we will always achieve that but I want people to come to the Aviva Stadium and look forward to watching this team. And ideally I would want every schoolboy team looking at the international team and thinking: ‘that’s how we want to play’. That is my dream”
“The majority of the Irish sporting public love football,” he continued, “and they want to see an exciting Irish team. They want the team to do well and I hope that they can really connect with the team over the next year so I’ve got to make sure the team plays well first and foremost and the rest will hopefully follow.”
Evolution not revolution, Stephen Kenny has no plans to clear the decks of his senior team - just yet. Upon confirming that Seamus Coleman will remain, captain, the Dubliner took a refreshing approach and was quite glowing of his new back four, pointing out that it was one of the best in Europe. Wait, hold on… Praise from an Ireland manager?
“I was speaking to some of our analysts and we got the printout of all the back fours from the top 20 (teams) in the last day or two. We went through it at length and I have the document. I looked at the back four against Denmark: Doherty, Egan, Duffy and Stevens and in my informed view that is in the top 10 of back fours in Europe. That’s what I feel.
“Darren Randolph has been very consistent in goal since Martin O’Neill gave him his debut,” he continued. “He’s been very, very consistent and makes good decisions. He’s been a very good goalkeeper for Ireland and that back four gives you a platform. . . once you have that you can focus on getting the rest right: trying to create more control in the games and more goal scoring opportunities.”
“One of the things that Mick McCarthy did really, really well was to rejuvenate David McGoldrick. While not a prolific forward, his hold up play and his football intellect - he has a good football intellect - he sort of sees things early and has good movement. He’s been very important to Ireland in the campaign.”
Viewing Ireland’s playoffs as an opportunity rather than a burden:
Going to Slovakia (most likely in October) and winning "then trying to win a final away from home (the following month) is tough based on recent away results over a long period; it’s a tough ask - but it’s certainly not beyond us and I’m not thinking it’s beyond us. We have to be optimistic. We have to view it as an opportunity.
On looking ahead to a very, very busy 2020…
“What I am looking at is that if we got to the European Championships that we would have 13 competitive games and possibly three or four friendlies between September and June. That would be 16 or 17 games across three different competitions, World Cup qualifiers, Nations League and European Championships, which has never happened.
“In my own head, that’s what I’m thinking. I am thinking that we could possibly have that. What an opportunity! I want to be a part of that. I want everyone to be a part of that.”
On not viewing the Irish job as a platform to simply elevate his career:
“This is not a steppingstone or platform for me to go elsewhere. This is it for me. This is the ultimate job. The Irish international job is the ultimate honour and for me to get a longer contract, I have to earn it which is down to the performance of the team and the way that we play.
It is refreshing to hear a Republic of Ireland manager speak about the players at his disposal in such a positive manner. For too long we’ve had to listen to previous managers bemoaning the resources available to them. Granted, they probably haven’t enjoyed the most talented crop of Irish player under their guise, however, at times you’d have sworn they were running a non-league outfit. Such claims were normally deviation tactics used by an Ireland manager after a poor performance.
By talking up his players, Stephen Kenny is in some ways making a rod for his own back. However, if the new Irish manager can replicate with the senior players with what he has done with the under 21’s, then we are in for some exciting times.
Only time will tell.