Richard Dunne on Ireland’s managerial search: “You have to get results, you don’t have to play lovely football”

Former 80-cap Ireland defender still hopeful that Lee Carsley might be the next manager

Republic of Ireland's Richard Dunne (right) and Italy's Vincenzo Iaquinta (left) battle for the ball during the FIFA World Cup Qualifying match at Croke Park, Dublin. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Saturday October 10, 2009. See PA Story SOCCER Republic. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire.
Soccer - FIFA World Cup 2010 - Qualifying Round - Group Eight - Republic of Ireland v Italy - Croke Park Former Republic of Ireland defender Richard Dunne says the FAI's process to appoint a new manager has gone on too long, but he will give them "a pass" if they end up with the right man. (Julien Behal/PA)
Cahair O’Kane: How do you feel the FAI have handled the process of finding a new manager and what would you like to see as the outcome of it?

Richard Dunne: From a starting point ‘til now, I think the process has been too long. I don’t think they would have expected it to take them this long. I don’t think we’re gonna have a manager for the games coming up in a few weeks’ time, which is a disappointment. In the longer run, if it means that you hold back a little bit and they get the guy that we really want then you accept not having him for these games. It’s difficult because a lot of it is media-driven, where there are different people linked with it, one day it’s him, the next day it’s him. If they have a profile in mind of a type of coach they want to go for, if it is a Lee Carsley or an Anthony Barry, somebody who hasn’t really managed a first team but has been coaching and developing players, if it means having to wait until June until contracts are up or whatever and they get someone like that, brilliant. It’s important that we have someone long-term in place that can develop us further, move us on to the next level and eventually try and get us into tournaments.

COK: The noises around Lee Carsley, it looks less and less likely to happen. It appears on the outside like the process has been slow because the FAI can’t get the person they want. Is there a danger that you end up with a really underwhelming appointment after a long process?

RD: You give them a little bit of a pass if it means come June they’ve got exactly who they wanted or the profile of the person they want to go for. If it ends up by June that we end up with someone who’s been around the block and had a decent enough career but without setting the world alight, there will be a disappointment from the fans. You want something to believe in moving forward. I think if it is a newer coach, a younger coach, someone you can get behind and support and go ‘right, this is four or six years of planning and progress for a team’, great. Your big concern is that it’s someone that comes out of the woodwork at the last minute and they just decide to give it to him. You would trust that the process they’ve been through so far, the length [of time] it’s taken them, that they’re sticking to their guns and really going after who they want or the profile of the person they want.

Lee Carsley is the England Under-21 manager
Lee Carsley: Former Ireland international and current England Under-21 manager Lee Carsley is still Richard Dunne's first choice to take over, despite progress on a deal appearing to have stalled. (Martin Rickett/PA)
COK: If it is an underwhelming appointment, would you still feel it was the right decision to let Stephen Kenny go?

RD: Erm… Yeah, I think so. In terms of what Stephen did, he did a certain amount of good stuff but I don’t think he had it where he was going to change the outcome of results, which was the most important thing. Winning games and qualifying for tournaments is the most important thing. Whoever comes in, whether it be a young coach or an experienced coach, there’s a certain element of the Irish team which means you have to develop the players and make us a stronger team than what we are. In the end, it has to always be about results. I don’t think we can bring people in and give them a job based on the fact that they play nice football but they don’t get results. That’s the most important thing. I think it’s the same for the new manager, he’ll come in with backing and support from everybody but he’ll be judged on results down the line. You would expect the same outcome if, after three or four campaigns, we’re not getting any closer to qualifying for a tournament.

COK: Was the lack of results a Stephen Kenny thing or a style thing? Would you like whoever comes in to continue and try to play the way Kenny wanted them to play, or do Ireland need to go back to something more pragmatic?

RD: I think there’s a misconception of how Stephen wanted to play because it wasn’t good football. It was backwards passing and sideways passing and it was possession football without being threatening to the opposition. The couple of games where we had a go at people, we played on the counter-attack away in Portugal, brilliant performance, the first half hour against the Netherlands was fantastic. But then we dropped back in to safe passing. It’s not like the wheel was reinvented. It’s not like we moved forward, we just went in a different way but it was equally as ineffective as some of the football we’ve seen in previous campaigns. Whoever comes in, the general style of football every coach that comes through their coaching badges, they all want to get the ball down and pass it, they all want to keep possession and play football. The important thing is that you still attack and go forward and you try to score goals and win games is what we need from the next coach. Having that little bit of nous where you can go and win games. I don’t think you can play well, lose a game and be delighted over and over and over. I think we have to put demands on the players where, listen, play well but go and win the game. If you don’t play well, try and win the game, do whatever you can to win the match. If we get to knock the ball around, brilliant.

Stephen Kenny’s final game in charge came in a 1-1 friendly draw against New Zealand (Niall Carson/PA)
Dunne deal: Richard Dunne was a vocal critic of Stephen Kenny during his time as Republic of Ireland manager. Picture: Niall Carson / PA
COK: Do Ireland have the players in central midfield to play a passing style?

RD: That’s probably the weakest part of the Irish squad at the moment is that central midfield role. If you look around Premier League clubs, all the playmaking, dribbling midfielders, we don’t really have any of them. We have a mixed style. We have a really good group of centre-halves, a couple of great goalkeepers and some really fast players up front. You look at that and go ‘how would you play?’ You probably just go forward a little bit quicker, try and play on the counter-attack. I think we have to play to the strengths of the players we’ve got. At the moment, that midfield role isn’t at the same level as the front and back lines.

COK: Looks like Ireland will be third seeds at best for a World Cup qualifying campaign, is that part of why they’ve struggled to get a manager in place? Qualification for a 48-team World Cup would be expected but it’s still a very difficult path?

RD: It is a really hard road for them now to get into tournaments, but a road we’ve been down before. When Jack Charlton came in, I’m sure we weren’t in the top half of seedings. It’s a battle and you have to out-perform your rankings to qualify for tournaments and get back up where you feel you belong. For a manager or coach coming in, you’re on the doorstep of the Premier League, it’s right across the road. You’re coaching Premier League players all the time and if you’re successful, there’s a real pathway to go back to England or into the Premier League. I think it’s still an attractive job for people but I don’t think it’s a quick fix. It will take a little bit of time but the rewards are massive for a manager. Obviously he’ll get the love like Jack Charlton did from Irish fans. From a professional point of view, it’s a real good challenge for someone who’s up for it. The players are there, it’s just doing the right things with them and making sure you get the best out of them in each match.

COK: Who would you like to see, and are they realistically going to take over?

RD: From a realistic point of view, I’d like to see Lee Carsley. I think he’s done a really good job with the underage stuff and I’d like to see him have a go at it. Whether he wants to, I’m not sure when that will come out or that will happen. I’d like to see somebody who wants to go and win games, somebody who understands a little bit of what Ireland is actually about and how you change our style of football while retaining the fight and passion and drive in previous teams. You have to get results, you don’t have to play lovely football. That means if you’re having a bad day, you just have to get the ball across and put it in the box. I want somebody that can move us forward and adapt like Lee Carsley, who’s been with England U21s, Man City, Birmingham, Brentford, he’s been through a few different styles and has managed at tournaments where you have to adapt and change all the time. He has the credentials. Whether he can do it at a higher senior level remains to be seen. Whether it’s realistic, I don’t know. You want the best manager you can get, the one that gets results is gonna be him.

COK: Damian Duff said last week he’d prefer if the Irish government’s €50m for Casement Park went to Irish League academies. Do you feel soccer in Ireland is funded and supported to the level it should be?

RD: No. You just have to walk around the League of Ireland and see the facilities, the training grounds, they’re not where they should be. There’s obviously a huge plan in place to try and get them up to there but until we see it actually on the ground, then you start to believe it. I think there needs to be more investment and more help towards the grassroots football and even the senior league in Ireland.

* Richard Dunne was speaking to The Irish News on behalf of