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Kenny Cunningham thinks Roy Keane should be considered for the Ireland job

Roy Keane Ireland

Former Ireland defender Kenny Cunningham thinks Roy Keane is ‘an option’ as a potential Stephen Kenny replacement.

Stephen Kenny’s days as Ireland manager look numbered after last night’s 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands at the Aviva Stadium.

Kenny was unquestionably unlucky to have seen his Ireland team drawn in the same qualifying group as the Netherlands, France and Greece – and he must have wondered what he’d done wrong in a past life when star striker Evan Ferguson pulled out of the latest squad through  injury.

There was no real shame in defeats to heavy-hitters France (2-0) and the Netherlands (2-1), especially given the striking superiority of those two nations’ playing personnel. That said, it was June’s away loss to Greece which left Kenny with an uphill battle; not just to qualify but to keep his job as Ireland manager, as a second successive unsuccessful qualifying campaign loomed.

That 2-1 loss saw Ireland produce one of their poorest first half performances of Kenny’s tenure and damagingly, it came against a team with similar resources. Stirring extra frustration for the FAI was the fact that Kenny’s team were afforded a two-week training camp lead-up to give them the best possible preparation for what was highlighted as the most important fixture of the campaign.

Could Roy Keane be a potential replacement?

Should the association come to the conclusion that another manager could do a better job than Kenny with the same group of players, then the former Dundalk will likely be out of a job at the end of the campaign – if not before the next pair of games in October.

The trouble here is the disparity of options available. The FAI are reportedly not in a financial position to offer a contract of any great sum, which has obvious implications on the pedigree of candidate they can attract.

The often mentioned Lee Carsley and Chris Hughton are contracted to respective jobs with the England U21 and Ghana, and Damien Duff (Shelbourne), Stephen Bradley (Shamrock Rovers) and Jim Goodwin (Dundee United) are about the best of the active Irish options who might accept an offer.

Attracting a progressive European manager also looks unlikely because of the FAI’s finances, which leaves veterans Sam Allardyce and Steve Bruce, as well as former Celtic boss Neil Lennon, as some of the names you might get odds for from the bookmakers.

There is one candidate who would tick the Irish box and the old-school box, however, and although he would probably have to accept a salary less than the one he collected as assistant manager under Martin O’Neill, it’s a sacrifice he might just be willing to make. The man in question is of course Roy Keane.

Cunningham backs old teammate.

Speaking on Off The Ball this Monday, Kenny Cunningham told listeners that Keane could, despite his fractious past with the FAI, be “an option” to consider when it comes to replacing Stephen Kenny.

Keane has been working for Sky Sports since he and Martin O’Neill lost their jobs at Nottingham Forest in 2019, shortly after facing the same fate with the Irish national team.

To his credit, he was on the coaching team that led Ireland to the last sixteen of Euro 2016 – a campaign that saw famous wins over Germany, Bosnia and Italy along the way.

Many people would have concerns that the Manchester United legend would revert Irish football to the direct, long-ball style that defined much of O’Neill’s reign and essentially undo the good work that Kenny has put in…but not Cunningham:

“I think Roy is an option,” explained the former Wimbledon captain. “I’ve seen Roy – not kinda change a little bit – but in terms of media persona…I don’t watch Sky…I don’t see a huge amount of Roy, but I’ve seen enough in terms of how he’s presenting himself, how he’s interacting with other people and people love it.

“We seen a bit of that when he was a player. He opens himself up and he’s great. He’s smart, he’s funny, he can carry a room with him, people gravitate towards him, the dressing room, players, teammates…so he has that for me and maybe he’s opened himself up to that a little bit more in the last five years.

“We all change, we all grow old, perspective changes, family, grandkids, the whole thing, so maybe there’s an argument to be made that now as a manager with the right staff around him…

“We spoke about skilled coaches who can actually do the work and he’d be in the mindset now where rather than look at these players and think ‘ugh, I’m not too sure’, [he can tell his coaches] ‘off you go, this is what I want, you roll that out on the training pitch for me’, get that happy balance, get those talented people around him on his coaching staff.

“I think there’s an argument for Roy Keane stepping in”

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