I will fight harder to do better and be a success as manager: Ireland boss Stephen Kenny
A DEFIANT Stephen Kenny says he will “fight harder to do better” and has “absolute conviction” of becoming a success as Republic of Ireland senior team manager.
The under-fire Dubliner yesterday received a vote of confidence from the FAI’s top brass following Saturday night’s disastrous 1-0 home defeat to modest Luxembourg which effectively extinguishes Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for next year’s World Cup finals in Qatar.
FAI chairman Roy Barrett and FA President Gerry McAnaney went as far to say that if the team progresses in this campaign under Kenny, a contract renewal is entirely plausible.
In an empty Aviva Stadium, Luxembourg striker Gerson Rodrigues grabbed the only goal of the game in the 85th minute which leaves the Irish pointless after two games in Group A – and which prompted captain Seamus Coleman to issue an apology to supporters after the game.
The Republic have yet to win a match under Kenny in 10 attempts and have scored just three goals. The limp manner of Saturday’s defeat – one of the worst in Irish footballing history – has put the former U21 boss in the firing line.
Approaching midnight on Saturday evening, Kenny spoke to reporters via zoom and was clearly shell-shocked by the experience.
But he maintained he was the best man to lead the senior team – and received strong backing from Barrett and McAnaney at yesterday’s EGM.
Speaking to reporters, Barrett said: “We are very supportive of Stephen and what he is trying to achieve. The board, certainly up to now, has been very supportive as well and I don’t really see that changing.
“And, personally, I don’t think it should change.”
There is a scheduled FAI board meeting today while Kenny prepares the side for tomorrow night’s friendly with Qatar in Hungary.
Barrett added: “There are going to be bumps on this road as we transition into the way Stephen and his team are trying to play, as we transition to a new generation of players who, in fairness to them all, have made very good accounts of themselves in the main.
“I think that Stephen and the team are committed. They are very resilient. There is good morale within the camp and what we're talking about is a disappointing result. That’s all in my view.”
On the issue of a contract renewal at the end of the 2022 World Cup qualification campaign, Barrett said: "Yes, is the answer. And that’s on the assumption that we keep making progress along the way but in the normal course, to the extent that he does that and does that with this group of players… Why not?"
President Gerry McAnaney echoed Barrett’s sentiments.
“I think Stephen is trying to do the right thing,” said McAnaney.
“He has introduced a lot of young players into the squad; look at young Gavin [Bazunu]. All of these things are plusses. I know it’s hard to find a plus.
“Over Stephen’s tenure he’s tried to play the game the right way. It was one of those horrible nights. They happen.
“We, as a board, and as FAI, we want our football, I want our football, to be played the way generally Stephen is trying to play it.”
Insisting that it was “too early” to say if Ireland are out of World Cup contention, Kenny said the only way he could have any control over public opinion is to achieve better results.
The Irish face a daunting World Cup qualifying triple-header in September against Portugal (a), Azerbaijan (h) and Serbia (h).
“I don't think it's up to me to convince people, what we've got to do is get better results and better performances,” said the manager.
“We've got another game now on Tuesday and we've just got to go again. Over the campaign we've got to do a lot better than we did against Luxembourg. The performance against Serbia was excellent but ultimately, we didn't win. This is a real setback for us, I'm not denying that, there's no getting away from that. I have to accept the criticism, to be honest with you, that comes my way and fight harder to do better. That'll be my intention.”