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Kenny support The only agenda around Stephen Kenny is being pushed by his vocal fan club


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Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny. Photo: Sportsfile

WE need to talk about the agenda enveloping Stephen Kenny's reign as Ireland manager.

This is an agenda backed by former Ireland manager Brian Kerr, as well as former Ireland strikers Niall Quinn and Kevin Doyle.

An agenda promoted by our legendary Sunday World columnists Paul McGrath and John Aldridge over the course of the last year and an agenda supported, without exception, by every Ireland fan, whether they are born in this country or dare to claim they are one of our clan.

This agenda is driven by a passion to see Ireland succeed, as we all share a collective desire to see our manager get the best out of the players he has at his disposal and breathe pride back into the nation's hearts.

It's at this point in the discussion that Kenny's Ireland project becomes divisive, with unnecessarily snide comments on both sides adding to the toxicity of the debate.

While some have been trying to pedal a ludicrous theory that some in the Irish football community want Kenny to fail, nothing could be further from the truth.

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Ireland manager Stephen Kenny during the match against Luxembourg.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny during the match against Luxembourg.

Ireland manager Stephen Kenny during the match against Luxembourg.

A national treasure like Paul McGrath doesn't suggest the current Ireland manager is out of his depth in the job without pondering long and hard before making that pronouncement, yet this story has long since polarised opinions on both sides.

Watching the remarkable documentary Finding Jack Charlton on Monday night provided a timely reminder of what we want from an Ireland team, as a belligerent and brash Englishman built a side that brought this nation to its feet like never before.

How we all wish for a return to those great days.

Just 48 hours earlier, we were all hiding behind our sofas as Ireland's 'Class of 2021' were being outclassed and, eventually, beaten by Luxembourg in a World Cup qualifier, yet no one delighted in their failure.

Of course, we didn't as there would be no reason to toast the failure of a man who has climbed the biggest mountain of them all to become Ireland boss.

Newspapers would sell more copies, TV ratings would explode and the national mood would be lifted by success for the Ireland team, so we all want Kenny to succeed.

Yet that does not mean a manager who has failed to win any of his first 11 matches is immune to criticism.

What we have witnessed since the 1-1 draw against Qatar on Tuesday are some home truths coming Kenny's way by Irishmen who want their voices to be heard for the right reasons.

Kenny-bashing is not a sport Irish legends will engage in, but a forum for a discussion needs to be permitted after an international break that highlighted the naivety of a manager finding his feet at the highest level of the game.

Hasty

Kenny's desire to blood youngsters may be admirable, yet one seasoned observer suggested the scale of the revolution was too hasty.

"I want to see Ireland playing great football, but maybe it's not a realistic target right now," former Ireland striker John Aldridge told the Sunday World.

"The lads are giving their all and that is the least we expect of Ireland players, but throwing lads into a team before they are ready is naive management, it's as simple as that.

"Part of me thinks Kenny might have benefited from working under a manager like Mick McCarthy and seeing what senior international football is all about. It's very different to Under-21 matches and what he has been used to in his club career."

Quinn offered up similar sentiments in his role as a Virgin Media Sport pundit, as he urged Kenny to use the likes of Shane Duffy and James McClean to guide the next generation up their international ladder.

"Bring senior players with you who have been around the block a bit and will help you out," Quinn stated.

"I hope he understands, Stephen put too much faith in young and untried players and they came up short against Luxembourg.

"The obvious answer to make the next steps is to blend youth with experienced players who have always served their country proud with the young players."

Suggesting promising young players who may well be the future of the Ireland team are not at a point in their careers where they can thrive on the biggest international stage should not be viewed as criticism - and anyone who suggests as much is peddling their own blinkered agenda.

In addition, this has nothing to do with League of Ireland politics, Kenny's managerial track record or his decency as a man, because none of that will save him in the job unless he appreciates the errors of his ways.

Kenny made some huge mistakes in his team selections and they have contributed to the end of Ireland's World Cup dream after just two qualifiers.

Despite that grim reality and his battered reputation, Kenny can save himself by re-engaging with his more experienced and, potentially, most valuable assets before even his biggest cheerleaders run out of excuses.

He really needs to.

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