Jim Crawford says he is looking forward to implementing all he has learned as assistant coach to Stephen Kenny as he replaces the new senior manager at the helm of Ireland’s U21s side.
“I’ve learned a lot from him, what he brings to the manager’s role in regards to creating an environment for players to go and express themselves,” Crawford said. “Everyone knows he’s about possession-based football and players being creative on the ball and, really, you need the right environment to have that as your output. And all this is underpinned with a culture of excellence – the staff he brings in, the demands he gives the staff, the high standards that he expects. It’s something I’ve definitely taken on board and I look forward to implementing everything I’ve learned from Stephen.”
Crawford is also pleased that he will have former international John O’Shea at his side.
“John as a player has over a hundred caps for Ireland, has played over 500 top level games with Manchester United, Sunderland and Reading. Even that in itself is fantastic to have but more importantly he’s coming in as a coach. He loves football, he’s passionate about it, he’s a deep thinker about football and that’s what I want. I’ve still got to sort out the rest of the staff, which I hope to get done as soon as possible, but John being the first addition, I’m more than happy to have him on board.”
Crawford, a former Newcastle and Shelbourne midfielder, has stepped up to take over the U21 manager’s role, with the team currently top of their group for the finals which have been pushed back to 2022 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It's been a whirlwind couple of days but it’s a huge honour for me to take up the role,” he said. “I've been part of the coaching staff with the team for the past 13 months and we've seen a fantastic development of the team. We've played an incredible amount of matches and done brilliantly in the qualifying campaign and also in the Toulon Tournament.
"We're in a great position. We're top of the group with three matches remaining. We've never qualified for the finals tournament at this level and that has to be the aim. If we could qualify, it would be incredible for the players but also the country as well."
Crawford, previously the manager of Ireland U-18 team before he took up the role in Kenny's U-21 coaching staff, believes there is every reason to be excited about the future of Irish football.
"I've been saying it for a long time, there is real talent coming through the system,” he told FAI TV. "It's there for everybody to see now. Over the years, I've worked with the likes of Adam Idah and Jason Knight, players of that calibre at such a young age and it really is an exciting time for Irish football.
"When I had those players at U-18 level, which is a challenging age group as it is non-competitive, they played like their lives depended on it. It shows the commitment they've got in playing for their country but also the quality we have.
"I'm excited to be able to continue working with them and I've got no doubt that there are a few players who might push up to the senior squad. We'll look to fill those voids if that does happen but we've got fantastic strength in depth and it'll open up the opportunity to someone else."