Among the audio highlights of the week is Eamon Dunphy's conversation with Stephen Kenny on the former's The Stand podcast. Dunphy's podcast mixes panel discussions with Brady, Giles and Hamann with the much more interesting concept of long-form interviews conducted by Dunphy, and this week's conversation with the Dundalk manager is a terrific guide through the career of one of Ireland's brightest coaches.
Dunpy raised eyebrows among Irish fans last year, when at half-time in Ireland's largely turgid affair against Georgia, flagged Kenny's Dundalk as an example of how Ireland should be playing: i.e. getting the ball on the deck.
During the course of the 90-minute conversation, the issue of a style of play came up, and Dunphy found himself a kindred spirit when it came to disagreeing with the aesthetics of the Jack Charlton era.
Dunphy asked Kenny what he asked of Charlton's style of play, before tempering the question by admitting that Charlton was an "evangelist" for football in this country, creating interest in rural areas in first time. This, in Dunphy's view, led to international caps for the likes of Shane Long (Tipperary) and Kevin Doyle (Wexford).
Kenny then revealed that he stopped going to the Irish games under Charlton, in protest at the style of play. In fairness, Kenny was eager to qualify his decision by highlighting the great days under Charlton - "there were some great performances in isolation, some great football performances, particularly the 1-1 draw with Russia. I remember Kevin Sheedy playing in midfield and being very influential" - and the quality of players at his disposal.
A listing of some of those players brought a typical Dunphy response, but Kenny was quick to bat it away:
Kenny: It was a great team. All of the players they had, all the Liverpool players: Jim Beglin, Ronnie Whelan, Mark Lawrenson.
Dunphy: Ronnie had captained Liverpool to the First Division, now the Premier League, in 1990, and Jack didn't pick him!
Kenny: Well I think it's the manager's prerogative to play who he feels is right.
What Kenny had a difficulty with was the philosophy. And this brought him to his most interesting point: that Charlton's longer-lasting influence proved to be a negative for Ireland:
Kenny: I think [the problem was] the Charles Hughes philosophy of POMO: the Position of Maximum Opportunity.
Dunphy: It's primitive.
Kenny: It spawned a whole era of coaches in England. It was a doctrine. Jack obviously believed in it too. And then it spawned a culture of underage teams playing that way, so whether he was good for Irish football is questionable.
It led to many much-celebrated coaches in Engand. Obviously, Dave Basset came through from Wimbledon. He came through from Wimbledon, and was very successful with that method. A lot of these managers were very successful, so that reinforced their belief that it was right.
I remember a prominent manager who went on to manage in the Premiership telling me when I was at Longford: "Stephen, footballers are thick. 'Fick is how he said it. Repetition, repetition, repetition is all they understand'. I was a young manager thinking, I can't agree with that. But he went and managed in the Premiership.
what followed is some classic Dunphy self-depreciation, when pointing out that Kenny agreed with him on Charlton:
Kenny: I didn't agree with you on everything!
Dunphy: I'm not saying you should agree with me on anything! That explains your success!
Dunphy then asked if Kenny believes a manager's style of play should be dictated by the players at his disposal or a manager's philosophy:
Should the style of play be dictated by your players, or your philosophy? No. there has been a thing, at all levels, where the managers would say 'well, I didn't have the player so I have to play a certain way'. But I do think if you believe in playing a certain way you will play in a certain way, and if you believe in a playing in a direct way, that is your excuse for implementing it.
It's worth seeking out the full interview, Kenny comes across really well.
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