Brian Kerr believes Stephen Kenny’s successor will need time to put their stamp on the Republic of Ireland set-up if, as anticipated, the current manager’s contract is not renewed following the disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.
Tonight’s friendly fixture against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium could mark Kenny’s final match in charge with his contract due to come to an end and an FAI board meeting on the horizon next week to decide the management team’s fate.
The next set of fixtures for the Boys in Green will come in the form of friendlies, starting in March, with no competitive matches until the UEFA Nations League campaign begins in September 2024.
Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, former Ireland manager Kerr said he expected the curtain to close on Kenny’s tenure in the near future.
“I don’t envisage the FAI are going to extend Stephen’s contract this time,” he said.
“The FAI are obviously in very serious debt still, although they’ve reduced those debts in recent years, and they need the income that’s generated by the national team to increase.
“The game is badly stuck for money, the whole infrastructure around the game needs investment, the League of Ireland needs investment.
“We need investment in young players, in personnel, in full-time coaches, in full-time set-ups to ensure that we have a stream of players coming into the international teams that are going to make us competitive again.”
Kerr added that what was most “galling” about the current situation was that Ireland have found themselves outside the top 33 teams in Europe.
As for an eventual successor to Kenny, he touched on some of the names already linked to the role – Neil Lennon, Lee Carsley and Kerr’s own former assistant Chris Hughton – and expects more candidates to emerge but felt the most important aspect was the space afforded to any new manager to implement their plans.
“People say, ‘who’d want the job and it doesn’t pay a huge amount of money’. But I think there would be plenty of people interested,” Kerr said.
“I’m sure Marc Canham (FAI director of football) is in the background – working on if they’re going to allow Stephen to finish up tonight – I’m sure he’s got a list and he’s already making contacts with potential managers.
“The teams needs to get going. We’ve got two friendlies in March, probably two friendlies in June, we don’t know who we’re going to be playing yet.
“But the new manager will need time to put his stamp on the team so when we start competitive games in the next Nations League in September and when the World Cup qualification fixtures for 2026 come about, that the team is in good shape and capable of winning games and capable of staying in the group until the last game or two.”
Kerr felt what proved most costly for Kenny over the past three years was attempting to spark an overhaul of the squad too quickly.
“My view at the time was that he misjudged how difficult it was going to be to win internationals with the players we had available,” he said.
“We don’t have players who are playing at the highest levels. We have very few players playing in the Premier League. A few now are starting to emerge and get their game on a more regular basis.
“The likes of Gavin Bazunu gives hope but there are others who are starting to get a game. Nathan Collins, Dara O’Shea back up with Burnley and Stephen brought those young players into the team and that needed to be done.
“But I felt it needed to be done in a more gradual basis. He trusted a lot of players in the Under-21s that he had, that had won some games at Under-21 level and tried to convince us that we were going to win matches with those players playing. Unfortunately, they weren’t good enough.”
Watch Republic of Ireland Under-21 v Italy Under-21 in Euro 2025 qualifying on Tuesday from 5pm on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player and follow a live blog on www.rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app
Watch Republic of Ireland v New Zealand on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player on Tuesday from 7.30pm, follow a live blog on www.rte.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app or listen to commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 Extra
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