Soccer

Nathan Collins ‘100 per cent’ behind under-pressure Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny

Republic of Ireland defender Nathan Collins (right) wants Stephen Kenny to remain manager (Niall Carson/PA)
Republic of Ireland defender Nathan Collins (right) wants Stephen Kenny to remain manager (Niall Carson/PA)

Nathan Collins has given his backing to under-pressure Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny as speculation over his future mounts.

Ireland’s hopes of qualifying for the Euro 2024 finals were dealt a potentially fatal blow on Sunday evening when they were beaten 2-1 by Group B rivals the Netherlands in Dublin on a night when they simply had to win.

Kenny, who is contracted until the end of the campaign, remained defiant after the final whistle as his critics sharpened their knives, but Brentford defender Collins is firmly behind the 51-year-old.

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny is under pressure after a difficult qualifying campaign
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny is under pressure after a difficult qualifying campaign (Donall Farmer/PA)

Asked if he wanted the manager and his staff to stay, he said: “One hundred per cent.

“I can’t put into words how much work they put in, every day and every hour, how many hours they watch other teams. Their whole lives have revolved around this week.

“He has given me my chance, he has put me in and has had belief in me, he is putting confidence in me and all of them. I can’t speak highly enough.”

Kenny replaced Mick McCarthy as manager in April 2020 after stepping up from the Under-21 ranks, and has since blooded a new generation of young players and attempted to play a more progressive brand of football.

However, while his team has won plaudits at times, positive results have been hard to come by and a return of five wins from 26 competitive games tells its own story.

Defeat by the Dutch left Ireland with just three points from their first five games, 12 adrift of leaders France and six behind both the Netherlands, who have played a match fewer, and Greece.

Collins said: “Obviously the table speaks for itself. We need to be proud of ourselves and go into the next game with a bit of pride and make amends for it.

“We can’t just let this now be it. We can’t just let it fade away. We put in so much work. We have gotten so close, we might as well carry it on, take that next step to push on and get better and beat teams at home, finish teams off home and away, take our chances, learn from it and build a team who can beat anyone.”

This month’s double-header – France in Paris last Thursday evening and the Dutch at the Aviva Stadium – always looked a big ask against teams ranked second and seventh in the world respectively.

But where the Republic were beaten comfortably at the Parc des Princes, where they lost 2-0, they led Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands courtesy of Adam Idah’s early penalty and might have increased their advantage before Cody Gakpo levelled from the spot and set the stage for substitute Wout Weghorst to win it after the break.

Collins said: “Everyone knows we were close with that performance. Putting in a performance against a top side like that, it’s very frustrating. It’s massively frustrating.

“The lads put everything into it, we made them very uncomfortable, but they showed their quality and that is how they got their goal. We should have taken a few more chances in the first half and it would have been a different game.

“But honestly, I am proud of that performance. We were good, we were strong, we were set-up well, but we didn’t put our chances away.”