Republic of Ireland Cannot Afford to Hesitate Over Carsley
With qualification for the 2024 European Championship in Germany now looking a distant dream, the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) has some serious thinking to do.
Steven Kenny’s future as Republic of Ireland manager is under threat, with his record of five wins in 26 competitive games simply not good enough.
Their recent 2-1 home defeat against the Netherlands effectively ended their hopes of automatically qualifying for Euro 2024 and the FAI must take swift action. While Ireland still have three games remaining in Group B, leaving Kenny in charge for those matches makes little sense.
In fairness to Kenny, he has overseen a transitional period with the national team, bringing numerous promising youngsters into the senior squad. However, familiar tactical failings have hindered his hopes of turning them into a winning team.
Opponents have found it easy to pick their way through Ireland’s fragile defensive set-up and Kenny seems incapable of plugging the gaps. Change is needed and must happen before Ireland’s next set of qualifying matches in October.
England under-21 manager Lee Carsley has been heavily linked with the job despite recently playing down the speculation on RTE Radio. Carlsley, who led England to the Euro U21 title this summer, suggested Kenny should be given time to get things right.
“It’s not something I’ve thought about,” Carsley said. “Stephen Kenny’s in the job. He’s doing a good job under tough circumstances.
“Thinking about the pool of players that was part of my generation that was there to pick from, compared to now, there’s definitely a transition that’s going on.”
Carsley’s comments are understandable given that managers are generally reluctant to push their claims for a job while someone else is in the role. However, he leaps off the page as the ideal man top build on the foundations Kenny has laid.
Online bookmakers clearly think he is contention, installing him as the second favourite for the job. Ireland fans will be mortified to see Steve Bruce as the 2/1 favourite, particularly given his dismal managerial record in recent years.
Fans inclined towards sports betting in Ireland may well view Carsley’s odds of 9/2 as the value bet following his exploits with the England U21 team. The 49-year-old has long been admired by the FAI, and they can ill-afford to drag their heels about trying to appoint him.
The English FA will reportedly resist any advances from their Irish counterparts, with Carsley seen as a potential long-term successor to Gareth Southgate. However, other managers may have stronger claims than Carsley for the England job, and Carsley will recognise this.
Ex-Ireland international Keith Treacy believes Carsley would be an excellent appointment for the FAI, but questioned whether they will be able to tempt him away from the England set-up.
“From the outside looking in, when you think of what class of manager we’re going to be able to attract for this Irish team, I think Lee Carsley is brilliant,” Treacy told Virgin Media.
“When you look at the success he’s had with the English U21s, and he has his finger on the pulse of the underage system, which is what we need coming through to our Irish senior team.
“If we can get Carsley, I think that would be a great match. Personally, I do think his stock is a little bit too high, having done so well with the English U21s.
“I think he’s really well positioned for Gareth Southgate’s job in the next couple of years. Whether he might want to hang around for that, I’m not too sure. He’s played for Ireland. He’s obviously is a very proud Irishman. If he gets offered the job, it would be very difficult for him turn it down.
“I would just think that personally, maybe, his stock is a little bit too high and it could be a step backwards for him.”
Although Treacy’s views have plenty of merit, they also highlight why the FAI need to move fast. Replacing Kenny now would give the new manager a handful of games this year to work with the squad and implement their ideas.
With Euro 2024 qualification unlikely to happen, Ireland must focus all their efforts on making it to the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
Carsley is the perfect choice to replace Kenny in the hot-seat and the FAI must do whatever it takes to appoint him before Ireland return to action next month.