HOW many years have Republic of Ireland fans cried out for the manager to get the team playing an attractive brand of football?
Previous managers, like Martin O’Neill and Giovanni Trapattoni, enjoyed huge success during their time in charge of Ireland but were always ridiculed for the way they set their team up to play.
They were often accused of holding back the players and being afraid to leave the shackles off. Ireland fans believed that their team were more than capable of winning games and doing so, by playing an attractive brand of football.
When Stephen Kenny took over as manager there was a lot of optimism that finally Irish fans were going to be able to enjoy watching their team play rather than having to endure 90 minutes of their side hoofing the ball, hoping to score from a set-piece.
Kenny has come into the job and tried to install a style of football that the Irish fans could be excited about but rather than support a brave manager going through a difficult time in the biggest job of his career, Irish fans are already wondering who the next manager could be?
Do I believe Kenny will still be Ireland’s manager in two years?
I highly doubt it, but he is laying the foundations to allow the next manager to have a team capable of winning football matches in an attractive way.
Kenny’s appointment was a gamble by the FAI.
If they truly believed in him, he would have never had to do his apprenticeship with the U21s.
It’s as though the FAI appointed Kenny just to keep League of Ireland fans on their side – supporters who always think players and managers in the league are good enough to play or manager at the top level.
Kenny seems like a man who still can’t believe he got the job.
He needs to have more belief in himself. Yes, he should feel privileged to be Ireland’s manager but not to the extent that he feels he doesn’t belong in that environment.
Kenny seems nervous every time he steps in front of a camera and even mistakenly spoke about Cyrus Christie winning promotion to the Premier League with Derby County last season – a club Christie left three years ago.
That might seem like a small thing but the Irish players would have noticed that and small incidents like that will make the players question the manager’s authority.
I do worry that if Kenny is that nervous dealing with the media then what is it like in team meetings with players who earn thousands of euro every week.
Yes, a lot of the players in the Irish team have a league of Ireland background but they have spent a lot more time playing in the United Kingdom than playing in Ireland.
Kenny has spent the majority of his managerial career working in our domestic league and if poor results continue the Irish players will start to question Kenny and wonder is he good enough for the step-up from League of Ireland.
It’s never easy trying to change the philosophy of a team, especially in international football.
The Irish manager is limited with the time he spends with players and hasn’t been helped with players having to withdraw from squads because of Covid-19.
I’ve enjoyed watching the team under Kenny even if results haven’t been ideal. Apart from the Slovakia game, do any of the other matches really matter? Not really, who cares about friendlies or Nation League games at the moment.
The next Nations League will be important but this campaign doesn’t mean much and it was perfect for Kenny to introduce new young faces into the team.
This is the biggest job Kenny has ever had and probably will ever have.
He is learning new things every day and fans need to be more patient with a man who is trying to brave.
Considering the results he has had so far, it would be much easier to revert back to Ireland’s old style of playing and get more positive results from it but then that would just be going around in circles.
Modern football suggests that it’s the teams that are keen to try and play a possession-based style of football and are willing to take risks that are going to be successful.
Kenny has a vision and although it has not been successful so far, Irish fans need to be patient and support the 49-year-old’s plan.