Kerr doesn’t expect McCarthy and Kenny to ‘overplay hard ball’

Brian Kerr has expressed the belief that, as “two sound people” who would both have “the interests of the game at heart”, Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny can agree a “sensible compromise” with the FAI to resolve Ireland’s managerial succession conundrum.
Kerr doesn’t expect McCarthy and Kenny to ‘overplay hard ball’
Mick McCarthy: Never any doubt about his love for Ireland, says Kerr.

Brian Kerr has expressed the belief that, as “two sound people” who would both have “the interests of the game at heart”, Mick McCarthy and Stephen Kenny can agree a “sensible compromise” with the FAI to resolve Ireland’s managerial succession conundrum.

And the former Ireland manager suggests that, especially when the issue is viewed in the context of the worldwide upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, there is “no embarrassment in changing what the rules were before all this started”.

The indefinite postponement of Ireland’s Euro 2020 play-off game against Slovakia — following the pushing back to next year of the finals themselves — means that a major question mark now hangs over who will be at the helm for Ireland when the play-off eventually does go ahead, since the managerial succession plan announced last November means U21 boss Kenny is due to take over from McCarthy on August 1.

Though, like the rest of us, he could never have imagined that we would be where we are now, Kerr admits that he was never a fan of the succession plan to begin with.

“I always thought it was a mad idea to think that it would go smoothly,” he says. “There was always the chance of some difficulty arising, although not this particular situation, obviously. But non-football people come up with those mad decisions where they seem to feel: ‘This could work, this could get me out of trouble’. I felt at the time that it was typical of someone who didn’t understand the game. What if Mick got us through and then did well in the finals and the general mood was for Mick to stay on? That’s one of the reasons I thought the idea was mad.

“Now I think the FAI are in a very awkward situation. And I don’t know which manager feels he’s in the more awkward situation. But, obviously, if the play-off is not played before the end of Mick’s contract, then they’re going to have to deal with that.”

Kerr thinks it both unlikely and impractical that we will see a situation where McCarthy could be retained for the play-offs and, should Ireland prevail in both two games, Kenny would take over for the finals in 2021.

“I think Mick would feel very aggrieved,” he says. “The qualification process can be quite traumatic unless you do a France or Italy or Germany or England and you win all your qualifiers and there’s no drama involved. But for most countries, there’s a bit of drama or trauma, and managers worrying if they’re going to make it. Even more so in this case when there are matches in Dublin in the finals. That has added to the pressure. So do you just say: ‘Well, OK, job well done, thanks very much, good luck — and now we’re handing over to Stephen’?

“I think that would be unlikely and, although there might be legal issues around all this, my view of both people is that they were sensible enough to agree to the first deal, they both accepted the terms. Mick would have been happy because he was out of work and here was a chance for him to redeem how it had finished for him the first time. So it was back to business for him. And Stephen would get the opportunity to achieve the highest achievement an Irish manager can get, which is to manage Ireland.

“So I think both of them were sensible enough at the time to accept it on its merits and I would think also that both of them are sensible and intelligent enough not to now overplay hard ball in relation to their own positions.

“The majority of people in the world, and particularly in sport, are now having to accept that there will be adjustments in contracts. Top players having to get a reduction or a hold-off on wages would have been almost unheard of, but everyone across the board in all sorts of industries are being affected by this. And sport can’t be separated from all that.

“But, again, I would think that while the characters involved in this would have their own personal interests, they would also have the interests of the game at heart. I don’t honestly know what way the discussions are going to go, but it’s very difficult to see — in the situation where we are at the moment, with two play-off matches to come —

Mick saying: ‘Fine, my contract is up, just pay me up the money.’

“That’s not a very practical situation for the FAI with their difficulties at the moment.”

Kerr also sees footballing challenges posed by a changing of the guard when the finals have not yet been reached.

“Mick has been operating with these players,” he observes. “He’s a strong-minded character, he’s got his mind made up about how to play and who should play. One big disadvantage he had at the start is that he had no trial period, no friendly games, he had to go straight into the Gibraltar game, which was a bit of a struggle, and on he went from there. Mick didn’t have the chance to experiment or look at fellas.

“So if we manage to get through the two matches and into the finals, would Stephen just go: ‘OK, Mick did that, now it’s my team and I’m going to change it and put in all the young players’, or whatever he thinks. That just sounds a bit impractical, really.

“Then again, Mick could walk away in July — there’s always temptations in football. But I do think, whatever happens, there will be a sensible answer found to a conundrum that wasn’t of the making of anyone currently in administration or authority.

“Now we’ve moved on and the people who made that decision are out of the way and no longer involved. And the people who have inherited the problem are going to have to find, I’d say, a sensible compromise. And whatever compromise is reached, it shouldn’t be massively difficult to get to an agreement that people can abide by. I think that’s very possible.

“Mick has given Ireland great service as a player and a manager. In the way he talks about playing for and managing Ireland, there’s never any doubt about Mick’s attachment to and love for Ireland. Stephen too. They’re two sound people.

“They would both have the interests of the game at heart.”

Kerr concludes: “And there’s no embarrassment in changing what the rules were before all this started. Everyone’s under pressure. These are unprecedented and extraordinary times.”

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