Kenny not worried about his future as Ireland prepare to face Serbia
After a difficult week for the Boys in Green, Republic of Ireland boss Stephen Kenny says he’s not worried about his future at the helm.
The heart breaking defeat to Portugal last week was followed up by the disappointing draw with Azerbaijan at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, with the former Dundalk boss under pressure heading into today’s World Cup qualifier with Group A table toppers Serbia.
A number of managers have been touted as a possible replacement for the Dubliner, with former Celtic boss Neil Lennon among the favourites.
Kenny though launched an impassioned defence of his performance at the pre match press conference, and said he’s not worried about his future.
“We’ve taken the best young players that we’ve seen for a long long time, we’ve blooded a lot of players in that period.
“You’re not always going to get a level of consistency with that. Our performances overall in this campaign, bar the Luxembourg game that we were very disappointed with, have been good over all.
“With Serbia and Portugal in the group, and the spine being ripped out of our team, and we haven’t qualified for the World Cup since 2002, did anyone think that we were favourites to qualify or that we should qualify?
“I’ve taken the decision, right or wrong, to build a squad to be really competitive to qualify for Germany 2024.
“We didn’t not try to win the games, we went very close to winning in Serbia and beating Portugal, we scored the first goal in both games and played some brilliant football in both games.
“Last week against Azerbaijan was a brilliant occasion, the supporters were brilliant. We started brilliantly, couldn’t get that goal, they scored from 25 yards, defended deep. We threw the kitchen sink at them, so many attempts at goal. Our finishing could have been better, we only have ourselves to blame in that regard.
“I think there’s real progress overall to be honest, that’s the way I see it, that’s the way the coaches see it, that’s the way my staff see it.
“There’s a lot of people who aren’t [involved] who say ‘that’s not your job to develop the game here, that’s not your job, win your next match – that’s your job’.
“And that near sightedness doesn’t create anything. You might beat teams you shouldn’t beat, but you won’t beat teams that you strive to beat, so you’re trying to build something that can actually be tangible over a period of time, and that can be successful. That’s the way I see it.”
Kenny was asked if he should be given a contract extension next summer in order to see out the project he’s building, however Kenny says he’s not concerning himself with that just right now.
“I’ve been given no assurances in that regard, and I’ve taken the decisions that I’ve taken regardless of the impact on myself.
“I’ve been given full support by the FAI, the people behind the scenes have been brilliant.
“We have a very exciting squad emerging, we’ve not a huge amount of players to pick from between the experienced players who are at the other end of their career, and the younger players coming through – there’s a gap there for sure.
“We’re very very pleased with our emerging squad.”
Serbia have taken 10 points from a possible 12 so far, and Kenny says they have incredible strength in depth.
“They’re a very good side. Luka Jović was €60m to Real Madrid, [Dusan] Vlahovic there was talk of €50-70m to the Premier League, and they’re not getting into the side at the moment.
“They have that level of depth, they’re a great example to us in terms of what a nation can do to produce players.
“Mitrovic has already scored 7 goals, you saw when they beat Azerbaijan he scored two goals from nothing.
“We’re going to have to be at our best to beat Serbia, they’re a formidable team. We’ve got to make sure that we’re ready to go, it’s our third game in six days, it’s only their second really as they had a friendly.
“We have to dust ourselves down, get ready physically, a nd give everything in front of our home supporters.
“We want our supporters to get behind us, and be passionate like they were the other day and we want to put in a strong performance against Serbia.
Kenny admits that while they need to be more clinical in front of goal, they have been putting in the performances.
“Some of our performances have been excellent, like against Portugal the other day. That was the cruellest of fates to lose that game, going into the 89th minute.
“The players have deserved better than they’ve got over the last few games. Against Azerbaijan we threw the kitchen sink at them, we created so many chances and we played so well and had so many attempts at goal.
“We need to improve our finishing, but Azerbaijan don’t concede a lot of goals. 2-1 against Serbia, 1-0 against Portugal. They’re not minnows.
“These players are playing in group stages of European competition, and none of the games are easy.”