Stephen Kenny backs Ruaidhri Higgins to bring glory days back to Derry City but warns . . give him time!

STEPHEN KENNY believes Ruaidhri Higgins has all the attributes to become a successful manager at Derry City but believes the Limavady man will need time to build a winning team.

Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 11:03 am
Updated Tuesday, 27th April 2021, 11:04 am
Ireland manager Stephen Kenny pictured with new Derry City boss Ruaidhri Higgins

The Republic of Ireland boss offered his blessings when Higgins informed him he would be leaving his chief scouting and opposition analyst role with the FAI last Thursday.

Higgins, who credits the Dubliner for shaping his career, stated that conversation was ‘one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had in my life’ but the Ireland supremo understands his decision to return to a club which played such a significant part in his own managerial career.

“That’s the nature of football and those conversations,” said the Ireland boss. “I know he loved his job with Ireland and loved the camps. Obviously they were quite intense with those three game windows. Three games in six days is a new development in international football and only happened over the last year. They used to be two games over 10 days and you had five or six days to prepare for your first game.

“So that’s the nature of international football at the moment and everyone is learning. I think Ruaidhri loved the intensity of that. Obviously the penalty shootout denied us the opportunity to play Northern Ireland to qualify for the Euros which was very harsh having been dominant in Slovakia for large parts of that game. That’s the way it goes.

“Ruaidhri now has an opportunity to go and forge his own career and I sincerely wish him well.”

Kenny’s relationship with Higgins dates back to 2004 when he first arrived as manager of Derry City and he’s best placed to know the capabilities of the new City manager who was his opposition analyst at Dundalk and most recently with the Irish senior set-up.

Higgins got his managerial career off to the perfect start with a 1-0 victory over Sligo Rovers at the Showgrounds on Saturday and while the Dubliner believes he has ‘the capacity to improve’ the Brandywell club, he expects the process to be a gradual one.

“I think ultimately, Derry is a club with great potential,” said the Ireland boss. “Derry City has a great history. Ruaidhri understands that and he’s part of the fabric of the club having played for nine years through highs and lows.

“Obviously he’s had a variety of positions then from being Head of the Academy at Coleraine to the analyst/coach for Dundalk, assistant manager at Dundalk before joining the international set-up. So he’s been exposed to different scenarios and I’m sure he will benefit from that.”

Ultimately Higgins is cutting his teeth in management with the Candy Stripes and Kenny expects mistakes to be made along the way.

“Ruaidhri is a keen student of the game and always was and would be introspective and reflective in relation to how he would view the game and picture the game. He loves the game.

“Inevitably he will make mistakes,” he added. “Everyone does. I think the squad at the moment is a very young squad. The contrast with Shamrock Rovers’ squad and Derry and the overall

Dundalk squad and Derry would be quite stark in terms of overall quality and strength and depth and I would think people would realise that.

“So I would say it will take time for him to build a team there that’s capable of being a success, that’s for sure. I think it will take time to be successful at Derry. He would need to add players gradually and I’m sure they will want to do that. I know there has been an introduction of some young players from the Academy which has been promising as well.

“I’m sure he will be looking to build something that’s gradual and has the capacity to improve but I wouldn’t expect too much too soon.”

The Tallaght native believes Higgins will be given every opportunity to make a success of the job with the financial backing of chairman, Mr Philip O’Doherty, who he believes will leave a legacy in the city with his vision for a new training facility for the Brandywell outfit.

“The contribution Philip O’Doherty has shown to the club over the years has been significant. There’s speculation the club is to build a new training facility for the youth team and Philip O’Doherty will leave a real legacy for the city if that gets built.

“He has already put in a considerable amount of money into Derry City and I’m sure the club couldn’t survive without that and his financial commitment over the last period of time. That can’t be underestimated.”