By Damian Spellman, PA
Stephen Kenny has vowed to build a Republic of Ireland team which “exhilarates” as he attempts to follow in the footsteps of Mick McCarthy.
Kenny finds himself under pressure after less than a year in the job, having won none of his first 10 games in charge, a run which culminated in Saturday’s embarrassing 1-0 World Cup qualifying defeat by Luxembourg.
However, he remains convinced that, like predecessor McCarthy, who endured a difficult start to his first spell as Ireland boss, and Michael O’Neill, who had a similar experience after taking charge of neighbours Northern Ireland, his team can prosper.
He said: “We can look at other teams over the years, in recent history. It was pointed out to me that Mick McCarthy’s team, which got to the World Cup, didn’t win in their first seven or something, and they had some brilliant players at the time.
“It was pointed out that Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland had a long unsuccessful run, and lost to Luxembourg as well in 2013, and that was a turning point.
“I want to build a team that really exhilarates Irish football people, and that’s it, nothing more than that. We want to be much better. We hit a low the other day getting beaten by Luxembourg. We’ve got to take that on the chin.
“Some of our play has been nothing short of brilliant against Slovakia and Serbia and we’ll continue to build on that and get better again. That’s the way I feel it now.”
Just two games into the new qualifying campaign, Ireland are up against it following defeats by Serbia and Luxembourg, and while they did indeed play well in parts in Belgrade, they emerged empty-handed.
Former international Tony Cascarino accused Kenny, who will send his team into friendly battle with World Cup hosts Qatar in Hungary on Tuesday evening, of “tactical ignorance” in his column in the Times as he assessed his efforts to introduce a more exciting brand of football, a barb the Ireland boss rejected.
He said: “Tactically ignorant? I don’t think that would be the case. I wouldn’t agree with that.”
For all the criticism which has come his way in the last 48 hours, Kenny remains committed to the cause and retains the backing of his employers, with Football Association of Ireland chairman Roy Barrett having leapt to his defence.
The manager said: “Roy Barrett, the chairman of Board, and the Board have been supportive to everything we are doing and I have not sensed any change in that regard at all, so that’s all appreciated.
“As well as working hard behind the scenes we have to work hard to get better, and I think there are areas that we have to improve in for sure.”