Robbie is a legend but Kenny must be allowed to be his own man
The FAI has been widely praised for the swift action it has taken in solving the McCarthy/Kenny managerial conundrum and rightfully so.
Acting deputy CEO Niall Quinn had promised prompt action on the matter when clarification had come from UEFA regarding the timing of Ireland’s postponed playoff with Slovakia. When the time came, the association had kept the Irish legend’s promise.
Therefore, I couldn’t help but feel a little deflated when Stephen Kenny announced his background staff minus Robbie Keane, leaving Ireland's record goalscorer's future in limbo.
As was the case with the managerial dilemma, Robbie Keane’s role within the Irish setup had been a symptom of the somewhat reckless economics of the John Delaney era. Something we have very well come accustomed to over the years.
When Mick McCarthy was appointed Irish boss in November 2018, we already knew that he would only be in charge for a relatively short period, with Stephen Kenny next in line. The former Ireland captain had signed a deal up until the 31st of July 2020 - this would allow his successor to take charge the very next day.
As we know, a manager will always have a number two, a trusted right-hand man to help get his message across to the team. Sometimes they will have been colleagues for years, or perhaps they will have specifically chosen someone going into a job - such as Martin with O’Neill with Roy Keane.
Either way, the manager chooses whom he works with and that is sacrosanct.
When Mick was asked at his unveiling about Robbie Keane’s inclusion into his management team, he revealed something quite intriguing. He had told a packed press room that Robbie himself, had suggested that he should join his team and not the other way round.
Mick told a laughing press room:
“It was suggested to me, by Robbie. At first I thought you cheeky bollocks, to be quite honest. He is cheeky, he played cheeky. He was impudent.
He once me asked me if I would consider him helping out in some way, a coaching role, management role, just to part and work with …
In June of last year, Robbie Keane had made an interesting statement of his own regarding his contract:
“The FAI want me to stay on here. My contract is longer than the manager’s (McCarthy’s). They want me to hang on. My contract is what it is. I will be here. If they don’t want me, no problem.”
Although as we have discovered, there is a very big problem.
Minutes from an FAI meeting on the 3rd of November 2018 have shed a light on Robbie Keane’s audaciousness towards his former manager.
John Delaney had revealed to his fellow board members that after a discussion with, whom he described as his friend, Keane - he saw the record goalscorer ‘assisting in the managing of the team with McCarthy and eventually becoming the manager’.
Delaney had not spoken to McCarthy about his plan to re-package his masterstroke of placing Steve Staunton in the hot seat back in 2006. Mick was only too happy to have Keane on-board. However, he would be placed behind his assistant Terry Connor, whom McCarthy has worked with since 2006.
Robbie Keane is a legend. He deserves to be described as one and more importantly he deserves to be treated as one. However, if Stephen Kenny is to be allowed to give his dream job his absolute best, then he must be able to choose whom he wishes to work with - minus any interference. The Robbie Keane question is not one for the new Ireland manager to solve, this is a problem that the FAI must sort by itself, as painlessly as possible.
It is desperately unlucky for all parties involved, that they find themselves caught in a net weaved by a regime thankfully no longer in control of football in this country. Although the current administration hasn’t exactly covered themselves in glory either.
The new FAI cannot claim ignorance on this issue as it had been foreseen for some time. In their defence, perhaps they are still coming to terms with the mess they have inherited. Niall Quinn had described being “punch drunk from the last 12 months”- so let’s pray it’s a one-off.
Matters were not helped for Keane when his wife took to social media to complain about his treatment by the FAI, even if she may have a point. Stephen Kenny will not be Ireland boss forever and for Robbie’s management aspirations, the last thing he needs is to make an enemy of the Kingmakers when he wishes to be King himself one day.
Amongst all of the confusion, one thing is for sure, with the appointment of Stephen Kenny we have on our hands a man of conviction and that can only be a good thing for Irish football.