“It is a pretty big ask from a guy who has only really managed League of Ireland teams and a team in Scotland.”
Jason McAteer has questioned whether Stephen Kenny has the ‘pedigree’ to excel as Republic of Ireland manager given his background in the League of Ireland.
The former Ireland midfielder also spoke about Brian Kerr. McAteer stated that he was, at the time, ‘bewildered’ by Kerr’s appointment as Ireland manager in 2003.
Kenny takes charge of his first Ireland game next Thursday when Ireland travel to play Bulgaria in the Uefa Nations League. The Boys in Green then host Finland at the Aviva Stadium three days later.
Before succeeding Mick McCarthy, Kenny spent 18-months as Ireland Under-21 manager. He achieved great success with a talented group of players, leaving them in contention for a first European Championships qualification.
Kenny also experienced tremendous success with Dundalk. The Tallaght-native won four League of Ireland titles and two FAI Cups with the club. He oversaw their qualification for the group stages of the 2016 Europa League.
“It is a pretty big ask”
However, McAteer, who won 52 caps for Ireland, seems unsure about Kenny’s appointment as Ireland senior manager.
The former Liverpool midfielder has questioned whether the new Ireland coach has the ‘pedigree’ to impress his new players.
“It is a pretty big ask from a guy who has only really managed League of Ireland teams and a team in Scotland,” McAteer told Off the Ball.
“To step up to an Irish team where he’s in a dressing-room full of players who play at the top level though… Players who have won things playing for top clubs, I think a manager who might not have a top pedigree… I think players might question that, yeah, I do.
“I think they might wonder if he knows what he’s doing. If he really knows what it is like to challenge for honours, for the Premier League or whatever it may be.”
McAteer on Kerr
McAteer played for Ireland under Brian Kerr, the last Ireland manager with a background in the League of Ireland.
The former Blackburn Rovers midfielder has claimed that Kerr did not command the same level respect from the Ireland players as his predecessors Mick McCarthy and Jack Charlton.
McAteer played his final game for Ireland under Kerr in February 2004 and has said that the Dubliner’s appointment left him ‘bewildered.’
“I actually wondered what he was doing and how he got the job, I was just a bit bewildered by the appointment in all honesty,” he said.
“I don’t think Brian’s playing career was basking in glory. And I think sometimes players might have questioned whether he knew what it takes to manage a team of elite sportsmen, elite players.
“His training when I went in, and I’m sure this will make headlines, but I found his training very basic.
“The way he went about managing the squad was quite basic and I was a little bit bewildered about some of the things he wanted to do.”
“It might be something Ireland needs.”
Finally, McAteer said the ‘step up’ for Kenny will be ‘massive’. He did, however, concede that Kenny’s progressive style of football could be a ‘refreshing change’ for the Ireland team.
“I’m always worried about the pedigree of a manager stepping into an international role.
“He likes to play attractive football though and it might be a refreshing change, it might be something Ireland needs.”
McAteer’s comments about Kerr are somewhat hard to dispute. He was in the Ireland squad at the time and that was seemingly how he viewed the then-manager.
His views on Kenny, however, are largely unfair and ultimately redundant.
Firstly, like Kenny, many of Ireland’s best players have a background in League of Ireland football.
He is not as famous as his predecessor, but players will respect a coach who can help them win games. Kenny has improved almost every team he has managed.
A famous manager might instantly command a squad’s attention. However, that effect will diminish if there is nothing substantial behind their approach.
McAteer’s comparatively illustrious playing career wasn’t a great help to him when he was briefly Tranmere Rovers assistant manager in 2009.
As the success of many high-profile coaches without famous playing careers – from Jose Mourinho to Jurgen Klopp to Julian Nagelsmann – has proven, players no longer care if their manager is a famous former player.