Stephen Kenny has sacrificed World Cup campaign for 'betterment of Irish football': Ruaidhri Higgins

DERRY CITY boss Ruaidhri Higgins believes Stephen Kenny has sacrificed Ireland's FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign 'for the betterment of Irish football.'

Thursday, 9th September 2021, 2:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th September 2021, 2:22 pm
Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny and his former Chief Scout, Ruaidhri Higgins.

Higgins, who left his FAI job as the senior international team's Chief Scout last April to take the Brandywell hotseat, says he found the 'short-sightedness' of some critics and pundits 'baffling' in the wake of Ireland' s three World Cup qualifiers.

The Limavady man has worked closely with Kenny at both Dundalk and with the Ireland set-up and is confident the Dubliner will transform the fortunes of Irish football if given the time and opportunity.

"To be fair I think there's been a lot of support for him as well," said Higgins when asked about the recent criticism directed at Kenny. "People highlight the criticism but there's been a lot of support for Stephen and no bigger supporter than myself.

"I think it's amazing and I don't think there's any other sport where you're so close to one of the greatest results in the history of Irish football and then one of the greatest players of all time scores twice . . . So you're six minutes away from an amazing result and then 72 hours later we draw at home (against Azerbaijan) in a game we deserved to win. You can say all you want but we deserved to win the game.

"So we've taken one point from six we would've felt we deserved and then got a point against Serbia. When people see results they react. I just think it's amazing how you can go from so much positivity after the Portugal result and then all of a sudden people are questioning him. I find it incredible. Some of the short sightedness is baffling."

The performances of youngsters Gavin Bazunu, Andrew Omobamidele and Adam Idah were largely hailed as the biggest positive from the three game international window and Higgins believes no other Ireland manager would've had the 'guts' to throw them into such crucial fixtures.

"You look at Bazunu, Omobamidele, Adam Idah. Let's be honest they are three huge players for the country going forward for the next 15 odd years. I'm not sure another manager would've had the guts to put them in for such high profile games. I think Stephen has sacrificed this campaign for the betterment of Irish football. That's how I view it. That's what he's doing and he deserves the opportunity to follow it through."

The Ireland players left everything on the pitch during the three games and Higgins reckons that's a clear indication the whole squad are standing firmly behind their manager and his vision for the future.

"I think you can see in the last three games that the players are right there with him and giving absolutely everything," he added. "Three games in six days at international level is crazy and the players are shattered physically and emotionally.

"To finish the games against Azerbaijan and Serbia the way we did in those two games alone, have shown how much the players are behind the manager and I think that's the biggest indicator. If Stephen gets the patience he deserves then I think we will have a really exciting vibrant young Ireland team in future years and I'm sure he will."