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‘new raft’ Stephen Kenny happy to embrace English coaching ideas as Ireland boss clarifies ‘old-school’ remark

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Stephen Kenny during a Republic of Ireland press conference at the FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown in Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny during a Republic of Ireland press conference at the FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown in Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny during a Republic of Ireland press conference at the FAI Headquarters in Abbotstown in Dublin. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Stephen Kenny says a ‘new raft’ of English minds have altered his perception of the coaching mindset across the water with the appointment of John Eustace resulting in the Ireland manager being forced to clarify comments from his time as Dundalk boss

He’s the second English coach appointed by Kenny with the Birmingham native succeeding Liverpudlian Anthony Barry. Kenny was yesterday asked about an apparent contradiction to statements he made four years ago when he said football in this country was “too influenced by England”.

In the aftermath of league title success with Dundalk in 2018, the current Ireland boss discussed the struggles of star player Patrick McEleney in the English lower leagues and said he was a victim of the climate.

“There’s no English coaches – the best is Eddie Howe,” said Kenny. “The rest are old-school in the way they think and the way they play. People are institutionalised by the way of thinking and the ideology about the game.”

Eustace (42) was hired as QPR assistant boss in 2018 after building a reputation at non-league level and Kenny feels that the likes of his new assistant coach and his predecessor Barry are reflective of a fresh approach.

After initially questioning the context in which he made those observations, Kenny later returned to the subject to “clarify” his views, insisting he was referring to English head coaches in the Premier League.

“At that time, I’m talking about head coaches who are managing teams playing in a progressive way,” he said.

“It wasn’t a wholesale criticism of English coaches. Certainly, he (Howe) was the only (Premier League) head coach of a team playing (progressive football) at that time. Now football changes so quickly, and it evolves quickly, and we’re all learning.

“There is a whole new raft of English coaches who’ve developed and are playing in a very progressive way now. At that time (end of 2018) when we looked at the Premier League, they (Bournemouth) were the only team playing in an expansive way (with an English coach).

“Whereas some of the other English coaches were more of a direct style. You couldn’t say that now. A lot of English coaches have emerged. It wasn’t an anti-English thing. That was the point I made at the time. It was a broader discussion.”

Kenny said the appointment of Eustace came about after he met him regularly on scouting duty in the UK with the duo regularly meeting at West Brom fixtures.

“I’ve met him a lot at West Brom, because he lives in Birmingham and West Brom is a place I spend a lot of time in, because we’ve got Jayson Molumby, Dara O’Shea and Callum Robinson playing there, and various other players from visiting teams,” he said.

“We would often meet there and have cups of tea and chats over the last year. I’ve seen him coaching at QPR and he has done well, so it just seemed, when I was working out who to bring in to replace Anthony, that he’d be a good candidate.

“I have had dealings with him through QPR as well on a professional level and certainly he is a good coach. He is an excellent addition to the team, a highly regarded coach.”

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Kenny acknowledged the fact that QPR play a very similar system to Ireland but said there was more to the appointment than that. He added that Eustace actually has more experience than Chelsea coach Barry, albeit at a lower level.

“He has been assistant manager for four years at a Championship club,” said Kenny. “He has experience of managing senior pros at a club over that period of time and that kind of experience can be important as well. I think he’s a student of the game, he thinks about the game, we did quite a few video sessions together before he came on board and we interacted in relation to how they train, what his ideas are, how he feels about… do we connect on that level.

“He’s thought-provoking and he challenges some concepts, so he’s interesting and I feel that he’s a really good person as well, and he’ll bring a humility to the group. I think he’ll do a good job.”

Meanwhile, Kenny said he remains in the dark about Ireland’s summer schedule with the home and away UEFA Nations League games with Ukraine naturally in doubt on account of the Russian invasion. Ukraine already have a rearranged World Cup play-off with Scotland to factor into the equation if they end up playing at all.

Therefore, the prospect of September’s home game with Armenia being brought forward to June – where Ireland are already set to travel to Armenia – is a runner although nothing is confirmed.

Kenny was speaking ahead of the Aviva Stadium double-header with Belgium (Saturday) and Lithuania (Tuesday). Blackburn’s Darragh Lenihan is out of the games with a groin problem and the manager is mulling over whether to bring in a replacement with QPR’s Jimmy Dunne a front-runner to be bumped up from the standby list.

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