Stephen Kenny says a “new raft” of England heads has changed his perception of the coaching mentality on the other side of the water with the appointment of John Eustace, which has meant the Ireland manager has been forced to ditch comments from his days as Dundalk boss to clarify
He is the second England manager appointed by Kenny. Born in Birmingham, he succeeds Liverpool’s Anthony Barry. Kenny was asked yesterday about an apparent contradiction to statements he made four years ago when he said football in that country was “too heavily influenced by England”.
Following league title success with Dundalk in 2018, the current Ireland manager spoke about star player Patrick McEleney’s struggles in the English lower leagues and said he was a victim of the climate.
“There are no English coaches – the best is Eddie Howe,” said Kenny. “The rest is old school in the way they think and play. People are institutionalized by the mindset and ideology of the game.”
Eustace, 42, was hired as QPR’s assistant manager in 2018 after making his mark at the non-league level and Kenny thinks the likes of his new assistant coach and predecessor Barry reflect a fresh approach.
After initially questioning the context in which he made these observations, Kenny later returned to the issue to “clarify” his views, insisting he was referring to England head coaches in the Premier League.
“At this time, I’m talking about head coaches running teams that play progressives,” he said.
“It wasn’t a blanket criticism of English coaches. Certainly he (Howe) was the only (Premier League) head coach of a team playing (progressive football) at the time. Now football is changing so fast and it’s evolving fast and we’re all learning.
“There are a whole host of new England coaches who have developed and are playing very progressively now. Back then (late 2018) when we looked at the Premier League they (Bournemouth) were the only team playing expansively (with an English manager).
“Whereas some of the other England coaches had a more direct style. You couldn’t say that now. Many English coaches have appeared. It was nothing against English. That was the point I made at the time. It was a broader discussion.”
Kenny said Eustace’s appointment came after meeting him regularly on scouting duty in the UK, with the duo regularly meeting at West Brom games.
“I met him at West Brom a lot because he lives in Birmingham and West Brom is a place I spend a lot of time because that’s where we played Jayson Molumby, Dara O’Shea and Callum Robinson, and various other players from visiting teams,” he said.
“In the past year we have often met there and had tea and talked. I’ve seen him coach at QPR and he’s done well so when I was working out who to bring in to replace Anthony it seemed like he would be a good candidate.
“I’ve also dealt with him on a professional level through QPR and he’s certainly a good coach. He is an excellent addition to the team, a highly respected coach.”
Kenny acknowledged QPR play a very similar system to Ireland but said there was more to the appointment. He added that Eustace actually has more experience than Chelsea manager Barry, albeit at a lower level.
“He was an assistant manager at a championship club for four years,” Kenny said. “He has experience managing senior professionals at a club during this period and that type of experience can also be important. I think he’s a student of the game, he’s thinking about the game, we did some video sessions together before he came on board and we exchanged how they train, what his ideas are, how he feels …we do connect at this level.
“He’s thought provoking and challenging some concepts so he’s interesting and I think he’s a really good person too and he will bring humility to the group. I think he will do a good job.”
Meanwhile, Kenny said he remains in the dark about Ireland’s summer schedule of UEFA Nations League home and away games against Ukraine, obviously due to the Russian invasion. Ukraine already have a rearranged World Cup play-off with Scotland to factor into the equation if they play at all.
So the prospect of September’s home game against Armenia being brought forward to June – where Ireland are already set to travel to Armenia – is a hot topic, although nothing is confirmed.
Kenny spoke ahead of the doubles game at the Aviva Stadium with Belgium (Saturday) and Lithuania (Tuesday). Blackburn’s Darragh Lenihan is out with a groin problem and the manager is mooting replacing QPR’s Jimmy Dunne with a front-runner who is set to be taken off the standby list.