'This is the way things are going, we need to stick by it' - Robinson voices support for Kenny

The West Brom forward has followed Matt Doherty in issuing a strong endorsement of his under-pressure manager.

Stephen Kenny and Callum Robinson after the draw with Serbia last month.
Stephen Kenny and Callum Robinson after the draw with Serbia last month.

CALLUM ROBINSON HAS followed Matt Doherty in issuing his support for Stephen Kenny and his coaching staff, as Ireland seek a first competitive win under their manager away to Azerbaijan on Saturday.

Doherty told Irish Football Fan TV last weekend that he hoped Kenny would be in charge “for a long time”, adding he believed he spoke on behalf of a lot of the squad. 

Speaking to the media today, Robinson agreed with Doherty. 

“Definitely, we’re going in the right direction. It’s hard for fans to see that because it is about results. I’ve been involved in football for a long time, we can feel it coming, we’ve played some great football along the way, yeah we’ve had disappointing results.

“But for the long-term future, with the players coming through, to be learning off the gaffer, with the tactical way we want to play…I wouldn’t say football is changing but this is the right way forward. And for young lads coming through and older lads learning, we’re only going to get better. And those small margins, hopefully they can go our way.” 

Doherty believed there would be no doubts surrounding the manager if the public could see the work being done on the training ground, another sentiment supported by Robinson. 

“We’re doing possession drills. Its not just a small box with two in the middle, it’s structured to what we want to do on a Saturday and the level of coaching has been really good. For the teams in the Premiership and the Championship, this is the way things are going. We need to stick by it.

“Of course, there have been disappointing results and we know we need to be winning.

On the flip side, against Portugal, we once might have hoped for just a 0-0 or scraping a 1-0 against a side without Ronaldo. But we didn’t just get out-footballed, we had a lot of possession, we played and we counter-attacked and that is [down to] tactic coming from the training sessions.

“We know we need wins. We are competing with the best, like Portugal and Serbia. We deserved to beat Serbia as well because of how we’re playing. Before we’d be hoping for a 0-0, whereas now we’re playing through the thirds.”

The decision on Kenny’s future will be made at the end of this campaign, with Saturday’s game with Azerbaijan followed by games at home to Portugal and away to Luxembourg in November. 

Kenny has resisted being drawn into speculation surrounding his future – stressing his focus is solely on Saturday’s game in Baku – but did say he understood the criticism aimed at him, with Ireland still winless in the campaign. 

“I’m not above criticism.

“It’s clear what our objectives are and we just want to try to achieve them on Saturday. Criticism is part of it, I can accept that. We just have to prepare the team and try to get the victory that we need on Saturday.” 

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callum-robinson Callum Robinson speaks to the media. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ireland drew 1-1 with Azerbaijan in Dublin last month, needing a late Shane Duffy header to save a point, having fallen behind to a stunning long-range goal from Emin Makhmudov just before half-time. 

Kenny says Ireland need to improve their first-half performance from that game if they are to win this weekend, with an emphasis on what they do without the ball.

“Azerbaijan retained possession really well in their own half for periods, so we needed to modify our pressing strategy around that and be better out of possession than we were in the second half of that first half.

“We weren’t cohesive in terms of our out-of-possession strategy, we didn’t get after Azerbaijan collectively in the way that we could have.” 

The full squad trained at Abbottstown today bar Ryan Manning, who has had a scan on a sore ankle. The group included new call-up Will Keane, who Kenny hinted is unlikely to be thrown straight into the starting team in Baku. 

The Irish squad fly tomorrow, a 5,200km journey broken up with a fuel stop in Bratislava. 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from FAI HQ, Abbottstown

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