EXCLUSIVE Niall Quinn: Stephen Kenny's Ireland have shown what is possible - now they need to deliver
Niall Quinn has insisted critics of Stephen Kenny need to hold their fire, as he urged the Ireland manager to seize his moment as he leads his team into battle against England at Wembley on Thursday night.
Kenny has come under some media fire after failing to win any of his first five matches since he succeeded Mick McCarthy as Ireland manager, with the statistic that his side have mustered just one goal in those matches adding to the concern around his approach.
Yet Virgin Media Sport analyst Quinn believes Kenny's side have already written their blueprint for success, as he suggested their display in the Euro 2020 play-off against Slovakia last month was evidence of what may be to come.
"The Ireland team set their standards high that night in Bratislava and the margin between success and failure was so thin," stated former Ireland striker Quinn.
"We saw controlled passing, we saw players wanting the ball and we saw a team that has a different approach that suggested good times can be around the corner for us.
"It would be great to be going into this round of international matches with a cracker of a Euro 2020 play-off against our neighbours in the north on the horizon, but that was not to be.
"What we cannot do after five games is have critics getting their knives out for Stephen Kenny because he has come into the job and we can see some evidence that his approach has the potential to work.
"A game against England at Wembley and all that it means would be the perfect moment for a few of the pieces that didn't quite fall into place for him so far to start to click."
Northern Ireland's Euro 2020 play-off showdown with Slovakia at Windsor Park on Thursday will serve as a painful reminder of what might have been for Kenny and his team.
While Ireland were the better team in Bratislava and had the chances to win the game before they lost on penalties, the Covid-19 chaos that led to strikers Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah missing the game left a nasty taste for boss Kenny.
Both players were forced to sit out after they were in close contact with an FAI staff member who tested positive for the virus, with the test later providing to be a false-positive.
Callum Robinson has now pulled out of this latest Irish squad after a positive Covid-19 test, with Quinn suggesting Kenny's frustration at the chain of events that left his attacking options depleted may never subside will be a lingering annoyance
"At a time when we needed everything we could have had, Ireland were pushed to the limits when they lost Aaron Connolly and Adam Idah," reflected Quinn.
"When it turned out the reason for them missing the Slovakia game was due to a false-positive Covid test of an FAI staff member, it made the situation more difficult to accept.
"I don't think Stephen or the players involved will ever accept or every shed the annoyance that on the biggest night of his career, two of his most important potential match-winners were not allowed to play because of a mistake.
"It's sad, it's hard to take, but I can tell you that the FAI did everything right. All the players were tested when they met up with the squad and then UEFA insisted on another test, which is where things started to unravel.
"The manager was frustrated and suggested he didn't need the communications person with him on the trip, but UEFA insist on a media person to be part of the travelling party and Stephen will be aware of that now.
"The FAI bashers need to calm down because this was not an FAI problem, it was a UEFA issue," Quinn added.
"The good news for Stephen Kenny this time is that our players are going to be close to home with matches against England and Wales and then at home to Bulgaria.
"That will help the situation because what Stephen Kenny and the players had to put up with last time was tough for them to deal with.
"It is a tough time to be playing international football and while I feel we need to keep playing the games if we can, it is a challenge for so many nations."
Watch highlights of England v Republic of Ireland on Virgin Media Sport at 10pm on Thursday.
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