On the back of the IrishThink's poll earlier this week, Stephen Kenny remains a fan favourite to continue on as Republic of Ireland manager until the Euro 2024 qualifying campaign.
Of those who gave a for or against to the question on Kenny's future, 80% voted in favour of Kenny staying on – with 20% believing the FAI should replace Kenny. 1,000 members of the adult Irish public participated in the survey.
Kenny has always spoken his desire to bring through a fresh team to take on the Euro 2024 campaign head first. The one major hurdle to Kenny's ambitions, however, is his current form.
So far, Kenny has only managed to muster up a single win in his 16 matches in charge – that coming against Andora in a friendly.
With fans back in the stadiums at last, Ireland’s last three World Cup qualifiers have had signs of optimism – albeit little to show for it. We were on the cusp of one of its greatest World Cup qualifying away results in our history – but heartbreakingly losing out to Portugal 2-1 in the last five minutes.
1-1 draws against Azerbaijan and Serbia in Dublin followed, but let’s look at the positives.
There were outstanding performances from 19-year-old Gavin Bazunu, who denied Cristiano Ronaldo from the penalty spot in the game against Portugal. Other great shifts from Josh Cullen, Adam Idah, Jamie McGrath and Andrew Omabamidele all shined for Ireland in these games. Let's hope for more of the same against Azerbaijan in Baku next Saturday.
🇵🇹 0-0 🇮🇪
15' Gavin Bazunu saves Cristiano Ronaldo's penalty to deny the Portuguese captain a world-record international goal!
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— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) September 1, 2021
And when you look at the age of these players, ranging from 19-25, bringing the game to the 8th best team in the world, it’s hard not to turn your head and wonder what the future holds. What this does prove is that Stephen Kenny is trying something different, and it’s going somewhere, we just don’t know where yet.
Bigger problems systemically
We didn't arrive here by chance. The current state of Ireland's international output has been a product of mismanagement and lack of resources in the game over the last two decades. Speaking on OTB's Football Show, Johnny Ward was quick to highlight issues surrounding the structure of the Irish game.
"We have a lot more issues than who is managing the Irish team, let’s be honest about that. Whether Kenny is there or not, the Euros campaign is not going to fix that we have a League of Ireland [situation] where many of the grounds are not up to scratch," says Ward.
"We don’t have a truly national league in this country. The structures just haven’t been up to scratch. We don’t have government support for academies. Stephen Kenny is not going to change that. We have far more issues than just the senior Irish team" Ward continued.
Kenny still the man for the job?
According to Irish Independent journalist Dan McDonnell, the FAI board are still not finalised a decision about Kenny's future. Speaking on The Football Show as well, McDonnell says that the board are leaning on the side of seeing how results go.
"I think there’s a feeling that they would like it to work out. But reasonably enough there are people who see the current results and express some concern. But I’m still not sure if it’s quite at the point where there would be enough people there to fully force a change," says McDonnell.
"I still think it’s in Kenny’s hands. That he can win people over" says McDonnell.
Ireland face Azerbaijan next Saturday
The easiest way for Kenny to win over the board in full, and the Irish public, is to grab a win in Baku next Saturday. Ireland travels to Azerbaijan knowing that their opponents are a tough nut to crack. A win for Ireland wouldn't be enough to leapfrog Luxembourg in third spot – but would certainly mount the pressure.
Meanwhile, Stephen Kenny announced his squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers. Seamus Coleman and Dara O'Shea are both out with injuries. While Wigan's Will Keane has been called up for his first time in the international camp.
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