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Not picking Robbie as part of his back-room team right move by new boss


NOT HIS MAN: Robbie Keane was never part of Stephen Kenny’s plans. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

NOT HIS MAN: Robbie Keane was never part of Stephen Kenny’s plans. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

NOT HIS MAN: Robbie Keane was never part of Stephen Kenny’s plans. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Despite their obviously good intentions, the FAI's haste in despatching one expensive bit of business with Stephen Kenny's appointment unwittingly unearthed another legacy issue.

It's also impinged on the early days in the international managerial career of Kenny, for it seems a mite unfair that the new man seems to be spending so much time addressing a problem entirely of someone else's making.

Whatever one's perception of Kenny, the new man will mark a turning point in how Irish managers go about their business once appointed.

Unfortunately, his ascension is also a reminder of how the FAI once went about the business of appointing managers.

So often, and to unforgivable and ultimately unsustainable expense, international managers were more commonly deployed as a shield to deflect from any spotlight being shone elsewhere, rather than as a singular weapon in the battle to forge an enduring future for the embattled sport in this country.

From the "world-class" Staunton and the unfeeling addition of an obviously incapacitated assistant, to the elaborate excesses of the Trapattoni and O'Neill eras, brief interludes of summer wine and song only masked the deficiencies that lay beneath.


Until, as a creeping sense of unease seeped into the weakening resolve of the iron-fisted regime that once reigned supreme in Abbotstown, Kenny became the unlikely beneficiary of a cack-handed and convoluted succession plan.

Now the absence of Robbie Keane - himself a belated addition to Mick McCarthy's obscenely expensive coaching ticket - appears to be generating almost as much traction as the actual appointment itself.

It seems important to remind ourselves - as so many seem to be conveniently forgetting - that Keane's status had not been decided by this manager, or indeed the last!

And, just as it was Kenny's decision to retain the services of the goalkeeping coach who served under the last regime, it was also in his gift to decide not to retain the services of Keane.

In fact, it can be argued quite strenuously that it wasn't even a decision made by Kenny in the first place; Kenny's thought process has been, with unimpeachable logic, to continue with the best team he could construct within the FAI's now straitened financial constraints.

He cannot be restrained by public, or even private, perceptions surrounding opaque notions of loyalty or status.

"I wanted my own backroom team, as simple as that," Kenny answered yesterday, albeit one suspects not for the last time.

The question's validity derives only from those who designed this preposterous arrangement and it is deeply disappointing that it should already appear as if a burden to weigh down the new man at the helm, a man who has quite enough obstacles to overcome as it is.

History recalls that the choice of Keane was a spectacular conceit which was not necessarily taken with the best interests of the FAI or the national team at its heart.

Furthermore, how would Kenny's authority in the role have been perceived had he, either blindly or gently pressurised from above, chosen to retain Keane against his own wishes?

Surely that would have been a concession to utterly undermine his authority.

Kenny has learned many lessons in a short career; choosing who he works with, an option denied him at Dunfermline, with inevitable results in diminished control and authority, is a vital tool for his modus operandi.

Keane's future employment status within the FAI has nothing to do with Kenny.

That is a mess bequeathed by the old FAI and one that the new FAI have struggled to extricate themselves from, even if their only crime is spectacular naivete.

Kenny has been a breath of fresh air; his willingness to talk about the process of getting results, rather than just the results themselves, marks him as out as being his own man.

A prospect that would be inconceivable had someone else's man been foisted upon him.