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green shoots Harry Arter joins Stephen Kenny fan club and says he's loving life under new Irish gaffer

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Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny speaks with Harry Arter

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny speaks with Harry Arter

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny speaks with Harry Arter

WE may have missed the biggest success story of Stephen Kenny’s traumatic reign as Ireland manager.

While his supporters have been desperately peddling the theory that their man is changing the DNA of our national team for the better despite a horrible run of results, sentiments from those inside the Ireland camp carry much more weight.

Harry Arter may be viewed as an unlikely cheerleader of a manager whose League of Ireland credentials have been used as a stick to beat him with, yet he has a contribution to the Kenny debate that needs to be heard.

As an experienced professional who has spent the last decade playing for some of the game’s highest-profile managers in England, former Bournemouth and current Nottingham Forest midfielder

Arter is well placed to pass judgment on Kenny’s credentials.

Here, in an exclusive interview with the Sunday World ahead of Tuesday’s game against Hungary in Budapest, Arter gives us a compelling insight into life inside an Ireland camp that could have been left battered and bruised by a troubled first 12 matches under Kenny’s watch.

And the report coming back from the 31-year-old, who won his 18th cap in last Thursday’s 4-1 win against Andorra, could not be more glowing.

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Stephen Kenny embraces Harry Arter after the victory over Andorra

Stephen Kenny embraces Harry Arter after the victory over Andorra

Stephen Kenny embraces Harry Arter after the victory over Andorra

“The culture has changed dramatically around this Ireland team and I’m loving every second of it,” begins Arter.

“In the past, the ethos of the squad was built around team spirit, the lads having a few drinks when we meet up in a bid to build a togetherness that would get us through matches.

“It was a philosophy the management encouraged and tactics and planning for matches probably wasn’t at the top of the agenda, but that approach will only take you so far.

“What we have here now is an Premier League league style camp. This is a professional set-up with a plan and a focus, and this is what you need to succeed.

“The professionalism of Stephen is quite intense, but that is what you need to succeed. The amount of work we get through every day is fantastic and I have to say, the training sessions we have done in the last week have been top class.

“Stephen’s passion to win is incredible and the way he wants to do it is creative – and I like the way he wants to try and get us playing an attractive brand of football.

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“We need to have an identity as a team if we are going to compete at the highest level and Stephen understands that – and is trying to change the way we go about things in our preparation, and when we get into matches.

“This is a new era of players; what went before in the Ireland set-up didn’t really fit for them,” he continues.

“When I first came into the squad, we had a crossover of old school management clashing with players working under very different set-ups at their clubs and we could see through it.

“If managers don’t adapt to how the world is now, they will be left behind and Stephen realised there was a change to be made in that area.

“With so many new players coming into the squad, this is what they would be expecting when they meet up with Ireland, as it’s so similar to what they are used to with their clubs in England.

“That hasn’t always been the story when I have met up with Ireland squads, but the attention to detail this manager insists upon is what we need.

“I know we have had a bad start under Stephen, in terms of results, but everyone inside the camp knew it would take a bit of time.

“This is a whole new group that was put together and he has created a whole new identity that we can take into the future.”

Arter’s positive words will count for little unless results added to the mix, with Kenny’s first win against Andorra so important, as he looks to silence his doubters and prove himself at the highest level of the game.

While a defeat against Euro 2020 participants Hungary on Tuesday will spark a fresh debate over a manager whose reputation has been tarnished by his failure to win any of his first 11 games as Ireland boss, Arter’s words of support for Kenny should carry plenty of weight.

“Stephen has been very unfortunate on a number of levels since he took over,” added Arter. “The way the world has been has not helped, with the Covid problems around the Euro 2020 play-off game and the fact that we can’t have fans at the Aviva big blows for him to deal with.

“I remember making my debut and running out in front of the fans was a moment I will never forget, so for these young lads to be playing in an empty stadium and not have the backing of our brilliant fans has made it tougher for everyone in the Ireland set-up.

“In normal times, he would not have had that thrown in on top of everything else he is dealing with, but everyone in the squad can see this is his dream job and it’s clear how much it means to him.

“That’s why we are all so desperate to do well for him.”

A wave of goodwill among Irish soccer fans may have kept Kenny in a job after a run of results that might have seen off managers who carry a different passport or boasting an alternative background.

Yet Arter’s insight suggests change is not just happening on the pitch for Ireland, with the revolution off it just as significant.

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