ROY KEANE says any criticism of Stephen Kenny must take into account the players the Republic of Ireland boss has to work with.
Speaking during his punditry work on ITV, Keane was reluctant to pin the blame on Kenny's door for Ireland's embarrassing defeat by Luxembourg, repeatedly pointing to the lack of quality in Ireland's squad.
Keane was assistant manager during Martin O'Neill's spell in charge of the side.
Keane said: “It was a difficult and tough night. I have to say Ireland must be rock bottom now.
“There was a real lack of quality on the pitch and the reality is that a lot of these players are playing at Championship level in England, not in the Premier League.
“For me, it’s a big concern when your best player in Seamus Coleman is a full-back. It’s not a good sign."
Keane wouldn't be drawn on whether Kenny should keep his job, preferring to highlight the difficulties he has faced in the role.
“He obviously has got his way of playing. He’s trying to play with more possession, and he’s trying to get that through to the players and the team.
“I have to say the stats are scary when you look at lack of goals and lack of goalscorers.
“But as much as it’s been tough for Stephen Kenny, and it has been tough going for him, I always go back to what he’s got to work with.
“I analyse all the Irish players nearly every weekend and none of them are doing too much at club level. Ok, they are doing ok and they are honest. But a lot of them are playing in the Championship and when they turn up for Ireland and the manager only has them for three or four days, it’s going to be very difficult.
“Then, when the manager is trying to bring in this style of play, with possession, it’s very, very difficult for him — especially if the players are not up to it.
“The best player Ireland have got by far is Seamus Coleman, and he plays at a brilliant club in Everton. But even Everton don’t play European football and don’t really challenge for trophies.
“It’s tough. I think it’s a long way back for Ireland.”
Meanwhile, Stephen Kenny is convinced he can do "a very good job" as Republic of Ireland manager despite presiding over a catastrophic start to their World Cup qualifying campaign.
Kenny's 10-game reign plumbed new depths on Saturday evening when Ireland slipped to an ignominious 1-0 qualifier defeat at home to Luxembourg on a night when a first victory under the former under-21s boss was the only option.
He later insisted he was not worried about his job despite mounting criticism and when asked why, he replied: "It's not something I'm focusing on. From my point of view, I can't affect that. It's not something I'm focusing on at all.
"We all have setbacks at various times and I have absolute conviction that I'm capable of doing a very good job here, but on this evidence that doesn't back it up, I do realise that.
"We have to do a hell of a lot better than that."