There had been speculation Dunphy’s withering criticism of King during the interim manager’s two games in charge of Ireland might have been in part coloured by rumours of a training ground bust-up between the two back in the late 70s.
But, when asked yesterday, if there was any truth to the story that he once broke the TV pundit’s nose, King laughed and replied: “No, I didn’t break his nose. Not at all. He ran away too quick. I couldn’t catch him (laughs). Let’s say he ran up the wall.”
King also laughed when asked if he had kicked Dunphy in training.
“I didn’t kick him hard enough,” he replied, before quickly adding, “that’s a joke.”
Pressed further as to whether he was aware of any history he might have had with the RTÉ panellist, King said: “There is loads I’m aware of, but that’s life. I’ve moved on from it. I don’t have a problem. I don’t even watch it (the RTÉ panel).”
Dunphy had described King as “tactically illiterate” and making “Giovanni Trapattoni look like Pep Guardiola” for his team selection for last Friday’s game against Germany, to which King responded by calling the RTÉ football panel “old and antiquated” and “a comedy show”.
Following a testy reaction on King’s part to a post-match interview with RTÉ’s Tony O’Donoghue immediately after Tuesday night’s 3-1 win over Kazakhstan, Dunphy returned to the attack, calling the interim manager “a bully” and accusing him of being “immature” and “out of his depth”.
Yesterday, at a press conference at FAI headquarters in Abbotstown, King made his peace in public with O’Donoghue, and said: “Anybody will know that over the years I will argue with anybody. I will lose the plot. That’s football, it’s a passionate game.”
But he declined to re-ignite his war of words with Dunphy who had earlier in the day described the whole saga as “a storm in a teacup”. Asked what he thought the next Irish manager would make of it all, King smiled and said: “The next guy who comes in will be professional, will be mature, will be in his depth and he will be fine!”
However King did call for public debate about the game to become less personalised.
“The FAI’s not the enemy, the Irish team is not the enemy,” he said.
“Of course we need debate, of course we have different views, and you wouldn’t have it any other way. But the Irish team is the people’s team and we give up our time and the players give up their time for the country. That needs to brought into the equation.”
King added: “I’m not saying treat them namby-pamby but that should be in the equation. And I think we’ve lost sight of that a little bit.
“I think it would be a far better sport, a far better arena, if the personalised stuff was gone and we talked about the football. I think that would be better for everyone.”
Ahead of kick-off against Kazakhstan, King also had to contend with what was generally interpreted as criticism from within, Shane Long tweeting “Cowboy! Nuff said” and James McClean — another player who failed to see action in the two games under the interim manager — tweeting ‘Long, long 10 days’ before promptly deleting that, only to then re-tweet Long’s comment.
Although King claimed yesterday that he hadn’t known about Long’s tweet, he adopted a conciliatory note when told about it.
“He’s come here, he's given up his time, he’s left his family, he’s done all of that sort of stuff, he’s done the bits of training, he’s left out in both games, he didn’t get a kick of the ball — I certainly wouldn’t expect him to be doing a jig,” he said.