James McClean expects Stephen Kenny to excel in Ireland job

Derry City manager Stephen Kenny wishes Sunderland-bound James McClean all the best after his final training session with the Candy Stripes in 2011. Also pictured Declan Devine (left), coach and Colm ONeill, physio.Derry City manager Stephen Kenny wishes Sunderland-bound James McClean all the best after his final training session with the Candy Stripes in 2011. Also pictured Declan Devine (left), coach and Colm ONeill, physio.
Derry City manager Stephen Kenny wishes Sunderland-bound James McClean all the best after his final training session with the Candy Stripes in 2011. Also pictured Declan Devine (left), coach and Colm ONeill, physio. | jpimedia
Ireland international James McClean feels it’s an exciting time for Irish football and believes Stephen Kenny fully deserves his chance as Ireland senior manager.

The Creggan man, who was given his first start in senior football by Kenny at Derry City, believes the Dubliner will be a big success taking over from Mick McCarthy.

“No one needs to sell Stephen to me,” insisted McClean.

“I know him inside out, as he does with me. Obviously he gave me my breakthrough at Derry and I’ll be forever grateful for that. Stephen knows what I can do and I know Stephen.

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“There’s no doubt in my mind that Stephen is going to excel in this job, because he’s an absolutely fantastic manager. He knows the game inside out and he has been successful.

“It’s a great opportunity for him and there’s nobody that deserves this opportunity more. There is no doubt in my mind that Stephen is going to grasp this with both hands.”

The Stoke City winger, who shone at the Brandywell under Kenny for three seasons before moving to Sunderland in 2011, feels that the Ireland squad are in good hands and says that the new manager will leave no stone unturned in his preparation which McClean described as first class.

“His attention to detail is second to none,” explained McClean. “Stephen lives for this and he’s such a clever man as well, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll be fantastic.

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“As players we have had the best of both worlds. We had a great manager in Mick and it is a shame that Mick has had to bow out the way he has, but we now have another fantastic manager coming through.

“The Ireland job is an opportunity Stephen has worked for his whole life and he absolutely deserves it. I can only see him being successful.

“Apart from Michael O’Neill, Stephen is the only other manager of an Irish club in recent times to get into the group stages of a European competition and not only that, Dundalk more than held their own in the Europa League. He also did well in the Europa League in 2006 with Derry.”

While most League of Ireland supporters and players who have watched or played under Kenny wax lyrical about his style of play and how good a man manager he is, no one is expecting Kenny’s Ireland side to start playing like the all conquering Spanish team of Xaxi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva & Co, but McClean does believe his old Brandywell boss will bring his own ideas.

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“Maybe we’ll change our approach,” he added. “Stephen will come in and assess everything and then he’ll take things forward his way.

“But would I say the previous regimes were failures? Of course not because we have had some fantastic results.

“We got to the last 16 of the European championships and we are within a game or two of qualifying for these European championships.

“Yes, I get it when your armchair fan who knows nothing about football is shouting this or that and they want ‘change’, but Stephen is a clever enough man to know what he needs and how he’ll take it forward. Every manager is different and Stephen will assess what he needs first and take it from there.”

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Having been given his Derry City debut under Kenny when he was 19, McClean knows that if you are good enough then you are old enough in the Dubliner’s book and when he selects his squads, likes of Troy Parrott, Adam Idah, Zach Elbouzedi and Jayson Molumby who have been performing well in Ireland U21 side will get their chance.

”Stephen isn’t afraid to play young players,” he confirmed. “If you are good enough, he’ll put you in. That’s always the way it has been with Stephen. There are a lot of very good Under 21 players at the moment.

“Twice this season I have played against Jayson Molumby, who is at Millwall, and I was really impressed with him. He has got a really good chance.

“However people think now that Stephen has come in he’s just going to bring all the U21s in the senior squad and not want anybody else. Again, that’s the armchair fan, that’s how they think it will go.

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“Like I said, Stephen will do it his way but I feel it’s an exciting time for Irish football.”

McClean, who has 74 international caps, admits he was disappointed Mick McCarthy couldn’t finish his term in charge due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Before any of this coronavirus stuff, it was a bit strange when the management situation was first announced. It was always a bit controversial in terms of basically naming two managers for the one job and how the change was going to come about.

“So yeah, it’s a shame that obviously Mick didn’t get to see the campaign out. I think he has put us in a very good position and he has been absolutely fantastic, not just with me, but with everybody since coming in.

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“He’s a great man and a great manager and he has put us in a great position. For him it’s disappointing not to get to see the job out, one way or another.”

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