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Ireland chief scout Stephen Rice on decision to quit Crystal Palace and join Stephen Kenny’s team

Stephen Rice. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Daniel McDonnell

Ireland chief scout and opposition analyst Stephen Rice has stressed that he wouldn’t have left a steady job at Crystal Palace to join Stephen Kenny’s staff if he didn’t think the project had long-term potential.

Rice had two years left on his contract as a coach with the Premier League club’s U-23 side when he decided to quit in the summer and join Kenny’s backroom team, replacing Ruaidhrí Higgins after his earlier departure to become Derry City boss.

The former League of Ireland player admitted friends questioned his decision, given that Kenny has no guarantees on his future, with a decision expected after the final window of World Cup qualifiers in November.

However, the manager is in a strong position after a pair of wins in October and Rice feels he has made the right decision.

He was encouraged by what he saw when he was asked to sub in at the summer training camp as coach Anthony Barry was a late arrival due to his involvement in the Champions League final.

“It wasn’t something where I was going, ‘I’m not sure’. This was a chance to work at senior level and from what I saw up close and personal from all of the staff and the players and knowing a lot of the younger players really well, I genuinely believe in what we can do.

“Some people might say, ‘You’re mad’ and that’s OK, but I’m a firm believer and I absolutely see it as a long-term thing.”

In a wide-ranging interview on his brief, Rice said the October wins were satisfying because the performance was in line with work from the training ground – and he admitted the struggles in September’s draw with Azerbaijan formed a big part of homework and meetings heading into the competitive success in Baku.

“There’s no question you’ve got to get results, that’s the game and we were able to implement what we’d learned,” he said.

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