Stephen Kenny prepares to take charge of first game against Bulgaria

‘We will be aggressive in how we play’: Republic of Ireland full of expectation as new manager Stephen Kenny prepares to take charge of first game in charge against Bulgaria

  • Stephen Kenny set to take charge of Republic of Ireland for first time vs Bulgaria 
  • Kenny succeeded Mick McCarthy and there are high expectations of him 
  • 48-year-old says he wants Ireland to be aggressive and press opponents high 

It was a plan hastily hatched and clumsily executed by a former FAI regime, but finally Ireland has what it has long since wanted – Stephen Kenny taking charge of its national team.

Twenty-one months on from the appointment of Mick McCarthy – accompanied with the shock news that Kenny would replace him after Euro 2020 – the new manager is ready for his first match in Bulgaria on Thursday evening.

To an outside observer, the succession plan and decision to serve McCarthy with his notice on day one was baffling, needless. But not in Ireland.

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny is ready for his first game in charge vs Bulgaria

Kenny is the man they want. The 49-year-old led Dundalk to four domestic titles as well as the group stage of the Europa League, all the while employing an attractive and progressive brand of football deemed in stark contrast to the industrial and unsightly efforts of the national side.

The natives see Kenny as the man to transform the game throughout Ireland. But on Thursday night, in Sofia, we will learn just how much change he has brought about with a senior team who, for the large part, have been rank bad since missing out on the 2018 World Cup.

Kenny is softly spoken, emotionally invested and has been known to cry when talking about his teams with the press.

Kenny is adamant that he wants his team to be aggressive in how they play and press high

But there is also a steadfast conviction, evidenced on the eve of Thursday’s Nations League opener. 

‘For us, we want to play – I’m not compromising on that,’ he said.

‘We will be aggressive in how we play, I absolutely say that with conviction. We will press high the way we’re capable of doing and we’ll ultimately want to control the games in the way that we can.’

Kenny has spent time with each Ireland player since his elevation from the Under-21s in March – the cancellation of Euro 2020 brought forward his appointment – and they have all spoken this week of an attention to detail that feels new.

Robbie Brady praised Kenny and commented upon the new manager’s attention to detail

‘It’s good to hear when someone goes in-depth on what you’re good at,’ said Robbie Brady. ‘You know they’re not making stuff up on the spot.’

But Kenny will have to think fast if he is going to reverse the fortunes of a side who, in nearly three years, have scored more than one goal in a competitive fixture only once, and that against Gibraltar.

After Thursday’s game and Sunday’s visit of Finland there is the Euro 2020 play-off in Slovakia next month.

For the first time in a long while, Ireland expects.

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