Whelan and Dealin' | 

Ireland legend Ronnie Whelan offers words of advice for Stephen Kenny's critics

Ronnie calling for patience and continuity, so manager can complete his objectives

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile© SPORTSFILE

Kevin PalmerSunday World

Liverpool great Ronnie Whelan has urged critics of Ireland manager Kenny to hold their fire, as he suggests there have been real signs of progress in his mission to rebrand the national team.

Ireland’s efforts to qualify for the World Cup finals that get underway next weekend may have fallen flat, yet Kenny was still handed a new contract by the FAI in March.

While that deal gave the Dubliner a chance to lead Ireland into the Euro 2024 qualifiers, a nightmare draw has thrown his team into a group with Holland and France.

Striker Troy Parrott (left) and Stephen Kenny© SPORTSFILE

The time is approaching for Kenny to covert promise into results when the next round of qualifiers start in March, but Whelan has told the Sunday World that the 51-year-old tactician should be given time to complete his project.“

Stephen is trying to build something and while it might not work in the long run, I think he should be given the chance to see it through,” said Whelan, speaking as he promoted his theatre tour across Ireland next year alongside fellow Liverpool greats Jan Molby and Steve McMahon.

“I know results haven’t always been great for Stephen, but I’ve been quietly impressed with how they have been going along.

“We can see what he is trying to do. There are older players in the squad and he is looking to blend the younger players with them, so we can see where he is taking it.

“Now, I’m interested to see what comes next. While we all know this is a results business, I believe Ireland needed to go through the process Stephen has been overseeing.

“It got to a point where we had to decide which way we wanted to go.

“Do we keep trying foreign managers and trying to find a quick fix, or do we look a little more long term with someone like Stephen?

“This is a manager who has lots of experience in Irish soccer and in European competition with his clubs, so let’s have a look and see if this approach works.

“For me, he is trying to build something and while it might not work in the long run, I think he should be given the chance to see it through.

“It might not be for the next Euros and it might be for the next World Cup, even though I know people don’t want to wait that long.

“The trouble for me is if we get an overseas manager in and go back to the way it was before, we are back at square one and all the building and progress we have seen will go out the window.

“Give it another year, let’s see where we are by then. Then you can make a decision on where this is going.”

Whelan’s words of support will be music to Kenny’s ears ahead of this coming Thursday’s friendly against Norway at the Aviva Stadium.

Yet, one of the heroes of Ireland’s Euro ’88 and Italia 90 successes under Jack Charlton admits the long term problems for our national team will endure.

“I do sometimes wonder whether I would have got a chance to have the career I had if I was trying to break through now,” he added.

Ronnie Whelan, Steve McMahon and Jan Molby are touring Ireland in 2023

“When I was 15 at Home Farm, the door was open for me to try and get into an English club, but that isn’t as easy now.

“The reality is the big Premier League clubs in England can pay £50million for a full-back and they aren’t looking to young."

Ronnie Whelan is touring Ireland in 2023 with fellow Liverpool legends Steve McMahon and Jan Molby. Tickets are available now.

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