It wasn’t by design but Stephen Kenny could have just added one of the UK’s most progressive coaches to the Republic of Ireland management team.
The name Anthony Barry didn’t strike a chord with Irish fans when the FAI confirmed Damien Duff’s replacement Friday afternoon.
Chelsea was the only common connection between the pair, yet Barry is a track-suited assistant working in the background compared to Duff’s prominent status as a member of their first two Premier League winning teams.
Nevertheless, reputations on the coaching circuit are not guaranteed by the playing career that goes before.
Barry has ventured far along his coaching career in the four years since curtailing his playing career at 30, spending a few years under former Sligo Rovers boss Paul Cook before Frank Lampard headhunted him to Chelsea last summer.
Despite the manager’s sacking four weeks ago, Barry rejected the offer of a first managerial post at Fleetwood Town to stay at the Premier League club on the staff of new chief Thomas Tuchel.
There was never a chance of Barry sacrificing his coveted post to diversify towards international football, meaning Kenny has had to compromise by allowing his newcomer to job-share.
The Ireland boss had made much of the fact 10 months ago that his sidekicks Keith Andrews and Duff would dedicate their undivided attention. Famously, within a week of John Delaney claiming Roy Keane couldn’t do “two jobs”, Ireland’s assistant manager was performing a similar function for Aston Villa.
Kenny won’t mind so long as Barry imports some of his nous from Chelsea into the Ireland fold.
Lampard was first charmed by the budding coach’s talent when they shared their Uefa Pro Licence course last year, drafting him onto his staff to perform a number of functions, among them the speciality of set-pieces. There isn’t much to reflect favourably on Lampard’s erratic tenure but improving their effectiveness in both boxes from corners and free-kicks was considered one positive.
Defender Reece James knew all about Barry’s tutelage. They had worked together at Wigan, where Barry became their youngest-ever assistant coach, flanking Cook as they brought the Latics back into the Championship. But for off-field misdemeanours, resulting in a 12-point deduction, they would have succeeded in keeping them there.
“He’s a student of football,” Cook said about his protégé in an interview with, noting how Barry’s analysis helped Wigan’s run to the FA Cup quarter-finals in 2018, culling big guns Bournemouth, West Ham, and Manchester City on the trail. “He watches games, he’s very much into match analysis as much as coaching. He just lives for football.”
That will suit Kenny down to the ground.
It was evident during his 12-month apprenticeship as U21 manager that clear lines of demarcation were his staple. “There should be no grey areas within the coaching staff,” he proclaimed when succeeding Mick McCarthy last year.
For example, when his U21s faced Italy and Iceland four days apart early in the Euro qualifying campaign, Jim Crawford was assigned the responsibility for scouting the Icelanders. Within hours of holding top seeds Italy to a scoreless draw at Tallaght, Crawford presented the camp with his report on their next opponents.
Those demands have intensified since, as Covid-19 has condensed the international calendar to include three matches over a week.
Lee Carsley would also be attuned to that rigour from his time at the English FA but the former Ireland midfielder opted against joining the cause despite meeting Kenny in the UK just before Christmas.
Barry will be aware he wasn’t the first choice but that shouldn’t dim his appetite to better himself and his new employer in a different sphere.