Monday 17 December 2018

Stephen Hunt: 'Embarassing Pat's and Derry moves set league back another few years'

McCarthy is showing a softer side these days but he is still well able to rise above nonsense

Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny were the leading candidates to replace Martin O'Neill
Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny were the leading candidates to replace Martin O'Neill

Stephen Hunt

The League of Ireland clubs who tweeted their support for Stephen Kenny to take over the senior manager's job are a disgrace and an embarrassment to football and the nation.

If you wonder why some people accuse the League of Ireland of being amateurish, here is a prime example of it. Can you imagine Premier League clubs coming out and backing Gareth Southgate for the England job? They just wouldn't do it - they would probably be fined or even suffer a points deduction.

This is not about us against them. Yes, there are clearly issues between the FAI and the League of Ireland clubs which need to be addressed, and their relationship has to improve. But do it the right way.

The statements St Pat's and Derry City put out are embarrassing. It's fine for pundits or ex-players to throw their weight behind one of the candidates, try to build momentum and explain why they would see the benefits of Mick McCarthy or Stephen Kenny in charge. But, quite frankly, it has nothing to do with the League of Ireland clubs.

Recently, I had an injured player return from England for assessment and treatment at an Irish club because the facilities over here are better than his English club. That shows how far the League of Ireland is advancing and the strides it is making. All that good work is wasted when you see tweets like those from St Pat's and Derry. They have set the league back several years.

If Stephen Kenny is ever going to get the senior job, he does not need this kind of support. He will get it on his own based on his ability and experience. He has a brilliant record in Ireland, but I have to ask why he has never managed in England, and others might too.

The good news is that if there is one man who can rise above this sort of nonsense and ignore it, it is Mick McCarthy. Mick is man enough to realise that he can engage with someone like Kenny to help him in the long run, encourage him and perhaps develop him into the new Republic of Ireland manager.

And if Kenny is offered the under 21 job, as has been mooted, I think he would be foolish to turn it down. Mick McCarthy will be strong enough to have Kenny on board, not ignore him. He could engage with Kenny and other League of Ireland coaches.

As McCarthy takes the helm today, he has a number of issues which need to be resolved. The first call must to be to Declan Rice.

It may be too late now but if Mick goes around to Rice's house, meets him and his father, puts his arm around the boy and talks about building an Ireland team around him, then we have a great chance of claiming him back.

Rice only has to ask West Ham team-mate Aaron Cresswell what he makes of Mick and assistant Terry Connor because they recognised his talent and brought a defensive side to his game at Ipswich, and he went on to become an England international.

Sadly, it was time for change of manager of the Ireland team. The performances over the last year have been poor and have only got worse and more desperate. The team, the football, the fans, were flat. Martin O'Neill gave us some fantastic memories but all reigns in football come to an end and when you start to lose the supporters, you need special performances to turn it around. We just didn't look capable of that.

One of the biggest issues I would like to see addressed by McCarthy is building a stronger link between the senior coaching team and the youth teams so we have a clear identity and pattern of play.

He has to understand the chain above him and below him and connect with the underage coaches, who are desperate for information. I am not saying that Martin O'Neill didn't give our coaches information. I am sure he was polite and passed on valuable insight and experience. Giving information is fine but then going out and playing in a totally different way to everyone else made no sense at all.

We need to have regular meetings with the first-team manager and his coaches where they analyse all sorts of situations with different players and the underage coaches are free to ask why decisions were made.

The new manager will bring in a wealth of information, so spread it around and see if we can get the under 21s and under 19s, and so on, on the same wavelength as the first-team manager and his team. I understand the senior squad have to get results but let's all get results in the same way. The youth teams are getting results playing to a certain pattern.

An international manager and his staff going to games on a Saturday and Tuesday is no longer enough. Player performance and stats need to be scrutinised, discussed and used so that we can get the best out of them for the squad.

It is easy to say that Matt Doherty should be in the side now because he is playing regularly in the Premier League and playing very well. But he should have been in the squad two years ago.

Alan Browne has been let loose in a central midfield role at Preston this year and has been in good form in a struggling team. He is an energetic, box-to-box player who has transformed himself and plays every game. I understand to an extent why Martin persevered with other players in the role but that has been Browne's position for much longer and he is undoubtedly an improving player. He must have been spitting feathers these last few weeks.

David McGoldrick was injured for a lot of the games under O'Neill but he is in the form of his life at Sheffield United this season and we haven't got a link-up man used to playing in a 3-4-3 system, which was so sorely missing in the Nations League games. McCarthy always knew how to get the best out of McGoldrick, who is arguably the in-form Irish player in England.

Like the majority who played under Mick, I know he is the ideal candidate for the job. He will bring organisation, structure, respect, and there is a class to his man-management which few possess. He will bring confidence back to the players and will want them to go out and play and express themselves and give it a lash. Ireland teams under Mick always did that, and sadly you can't say that about the last few Irish performances.

The gaffer I had towards the end of my career at Ipswich was much softer than the one who signed me for Wolves. Your tastes, emotions and perspective change as you go through life. Mick has always had presence and a strong-minded character but he is definitely more loving - and a better manager for it.

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