THE NEXT Ireland manager Stephen Kenny was an interested spectator at Derry City’s exciting clash against Waterford last week and it got me thinking about how much influence the former Candy Stripes boss has had on Irish football since his memorable spell at the Brandywell.
I believe his influence in Irish football will last a long time and it’s slowly starting to surface as a host of Kenny’s former coaches and players are cutting their teeth in the dugout.
Having unearthed a host of top talent, who have all gone on to have a super playing career at both club and international level, some of those players are now putting on their managerial tracksuit.
Over the years Kenny transformed the game locally and left memories which will last a lifetime for a host of League of Ireland supporters from Dalymount Park to Oriel Park. He also has given the likes of James McClean, Paddy McCourt, Stephen McLaughlin, Daryl Horgan, Danny Lafferty, David Forde, Stephen Ward, Richie Towell, David McMillan, Andy Boyle, Niall McGinn to name but a few, that chance to play at both the highest level internationally and further their careers across the water in England and Scotland.
Now off the pitch a host of his former players, assistant managers are in the dugout at the likes of Dundalk, Derry, Waterford, Finn Harps, Cliftonville and Institute.
Kenny’s attention to detail and professional approach has rubbed off on his former coaches and players and has led to the likes of Declan Devine, Alan Reynolds, Vinny Perth, Paul Hegarty, Ruaidhri Higgins, Kevin Deery, Paddy McLaughlin, Mark Scoltock all now either managing or part of a back room team at various clubs.
His influence in the game has meant that Institute are in the top flight now and playing a brand of football that has got Stephen Kenny written all over it. They started to change things the minute Kevin Deery was appointed manager a few years ago.
Despite not much money on offer players all bought into Deery’s ideas (sorry Kenny’s ideas) of extra training sessions and trying to play the game the right way of keeping possession and play entertaining football. Although they missed out on promotion two years running, that changed when Paddy McLaughlin carried those ideas on and help guide ’Stute to the top flight.
In fact this season, ’Stute continued to play a super brand of football, which in the end gave McLaughlin the chance to go up the ladder and manage Cliftonville, where he has got results while fans are enjoying watching his style of football. He’s also had players coming for an extra night’s training.
While at Crusaders, they have went full-time and manager Stephen Baxter admitted last season prior to making the switch that he held numerous meetings and phone calls with Stephen Kenny to discuss how to make the switch.
Because the prize money on offer in European football, qualifying for either the Champions League or Europa League is essential for all clubs both sides of the border. In fact going through one preliminary round in either European competition is a massive windfall and a big reason why Baxter decided to move into the full time ranks of the game.
Now, while things haven’t gone according to plan for the Crues in terms of winning back the title (I’m not saying the Danske Bank Premiership title is out of their reach, but I expect Linfield to go on and win the league), I strongly feel that the Shore Road men will come good next season and because of that, in years to come, the Blues will also go down the full-time route.
In fact I feel a host of clubs will do that because money in Europe will be a big player off the pitch and while not every club can afford or will want to move to full-time, extra training sessions will become a norm throughout both leagues and that will mean that the football will be more entertaining and fingers crossed the crowds will increase.
I remember prior to Mick McCarthy’s appointment at Ireland manager, Kenny was the man all local League of Ireland supporters were calling for to take over from Martin O’Neill and ex-Republic international Kevin Kilbane had said that some Ireland players wouldn’t know Stephen Kenny.
However, while, yes the likes of Harry Arter, Matt Doherty, Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick may not have known much about the then Dundalk manager, the ‘big players’ in the Ireland changing room like skipper Seamus Coleman, Derry men Shane Duffy and McClean would be praising him and filling their team-mates in on how good a manager Kenny is.
So I thought Kilbane was a bit out of line when saying that.
However while McCarthy is a superb choice, I feel Kenny’s legacy in football in both the League of Ireland and Irish League will be huge and when he takes over in two years time, I fully expect and hope he will continue his magic touch.