Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high, and the dreams that you dream of Once in a lullaby
Stephen Kenny has found himself in a right pickle, his dream job as Ireland manager has within 12 months gone sour.
I’ve followed Kenny’s career for which I’m afraid to admit is more than 20-years, first reading about him as Longford town manager back in 1998 through an amazing rollercoaster since.
While he worked wonders at Longford, at first at Bohemians and most defiantly at Dundalk, I always felt his two “failures” Dunfermline and Shamrock Rovers were always uphill battles.
From the announcement of Kenny as Ireland manager I felt, it would be an uphill battle too.
His job at Dundalk was not yet complete and Ireland who were exiting the Martin O’Neill era needed a strong experienced hand through a four-year cycle not a man full of ideas.
In a previous column I compared Kenny to the last Ireland manager to come through the League of Ireland; Brian Kerr.
There are too many echoes of the early days of the Kerr era towards Kenny. Both men spoke of projects, of the long term ideals and vision for the Irish team.
What caught Kerr out was the short-term; that has caught Kenny out also.
A week were a brave side were lauded for a performance in Serbia, where in fact a second goal had been handed to them, to the undoubted reality that Ireland have produced their worst ever result losing to Luxembourg, things are just not sitting right.
What struck me on Saturday night was the absolute shock and horror on Stephen Kenny’s face when the final whistle was blown.
This is a man who told Shannonside Radio in 2000 that his ultimate aim was to manage the Irish senior side, he has worked for his opportunity and now is living a nightmare.
While luck hasn’t shined kindly on him, luck had nothing to do with Saturday nights defeat, in fact it was the hallmarks of bad management, tactics, formation and tempo all wrong.
The big challenge facing Stephen Kenny was always having to prove himself at this level.
While five league of Ireland titles sit on his mantel piece plus numerous other Irish silverware, that unfortunately won’t cut it with full-time pro’s in England.
“I told Colin Healy he moved his feet as quickly as a league of Ireland player” Roy Keane wrote in his book the second half – good or very good European results won’t shake the LOI tag!
I saw concerns flash in-front of me when Kenny was appointed, first of all the selection of his backroom staff, with Keith Andrews as assistant for the U21’s and then the seniors.
Dan Connor was named goalkeeper coach, but Connor didn’t follow into the senior setup.
My concern initially with Andrews appointment was Kenny’s lack of working time with the Dubliner.
While Martin O’Neill appointed Roy Keane having only worked with him in a TV studio, O’Neill wasn’t an unproven manager at a very hungry stage of his career.
There’s been well documented issues with Kenny’s backroom team, Damien Duff and Alan Kelly both leaving with Dean Kiely and Anthony Barry as the replacements.
Again Barry and Kiely are men who haven’t worked with Kenny, this new coaching ticket will take some time to bed in. Kenny might have a long term vision or plan, but there’s already been many bumps on the road.
The Ireland boss should have included history in his pre-match preparations, like he did with a now famous video ahead of the England game.
Liechtenstein ’95, Macedonia ’97, Cyprus ’06, the three worst results, but Ireland have always struggled against the smaller nations.
Luxembourg ’87, Andorra ’01, Kazakhstan ’12, Gibraltar ‘19 all games Ireland got the job done, but it was an all-mighty slog to get the winning result.
Even in the good old days when Ireland had plenty of quality up front, when Lansdowne road was a fortress, Ireland struggled to get the goals never mind the win!
12 months ago I drew parallels with the Kerr era, now just two games into the 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign it’s the Staunton era.
After 10 games of the Staunton era his record read W5 D1 L4, three were friendly matches. Kenny has had one friendly match, so for comparison with Staunton’s first 10 competitive games, W4 D2 L4, yes it’s that bad I’m afraid!
At this moment I think more of the McCarthy era back in 1996/97. McCarthy was persistent with 3-5-2 as the formation and a short passing style when he succeeded Jack Charlton.
A home scoreless draw with Iceland and a shock 3-2 defeat away to Macedonia changed McCarthy, in those two games he became the manager that would lead us to the 2002 World Cup.
The formation changed to 4-3-3, the reality that his rebuilding project at the time needed to be reviewed occurred, in the end Ireland lost out 3-2 to Belgium in the 1998 World Cup play-off’s.
Stephen Kenny now stands on the same plain, what’s done is done, the project needs an immediate review or Kenny’s dream will end with a short nightmare.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me, Where trouble melts like lemon drops.