Having enjoyed some of the best days of his career under him, Dundalk FC goalkeeper Gary Rogers has no doubt that Stephen Kenny will prove to be a success as the new Republic of Ireland manager.
The former Lilywhites boss took over the senior reins from Mick McCarthy with immediate effect on Saturday following the postponement of the Euro 2020 play-off tie against Slovakia last month.
With a new date for that fixture not expected until later this year and this summer’s European Championships also pushed back until 2021, the FAI felt there was no option but to move up their succession plan which had always been for Under 21 boss Kenny to take charge from August 1st for the next Nations League campaign as well as the qualification process for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has fast tracked that process and brought a premature end to McCarthy’s second stint in charge of the country, Rogers has little doubt Kenny has what it takes to improve Irish football.
“I think Stephen will do a terrific job,” said the 38-year-old. “All you need to do is look at his track record from what we did at Dundalk right through to the U-21s where he came in and very quickly put his stamp on things. They’ve been playing some of the best football that Irish U-21 teams have ever played so that just goes to show some of his capabilities and the way he wants to do things.”
Having featured in the Republic of Ireland squad on a couple of occasions four years ago under Martin O’Neill without being capped and been PFAI chairman since 2015, Rogers is familiar with many of the players who Kenny will be inheriting whenever the international football resumes again. While some will question the level of respect the 48-year-old will command, Rogers has no such concerns.
“If you look at the dressing room you’re going into, it’s an Irish dressing room full of lads who want to play for their country.
“There’s nothing better than playing for Ireland. I obviously wasn’t lucky enough to play but I’ve been in and around the squad and I know that the players that are there all want to play for their country.
“Stephen will tap into that and make the most of it. I’ve no doubt he’ll do an excellent job and play the style of football that has got him there. He’ll be true to his values and his beliefs in the game and I’m looking forward to seeing what he does with Ireland and I’d wish him all the best with it because he was terrific for me in my career and it’s great to see him go on and take the national team job.”
Having won three SSE Airtricity League titles under Kenny, as well as being a key figure in Dundalk’s memorable run to the Europa League group stages in 2016, Rogers says the new Irish manager’s ability to get the most from his players is what sets him apart from most.
““He’s an excellent motivator,” said Rogers.
Man to man he is brilliant as well. He knows how to make players tick.”
“One thing that is good about Stephen is he demands a lot off you and he makes you demand more off yourself.
“He doesn’t set the bar at being average. He wants you to set your bar higher and makes you believe that you should be aiming for better things and I suppose 2016 epitomised that when you look at what we achieved. When you look at the scale of things back then in terms of budgets and the teams we played against and how we did then that wouldn’t have been possible unless you have a manager who wants you to go out there and be the best you can be, who believes in you and makes you believe in yourself.
“I think that’s something that Stephen has in his locker. He makes lads aim higher and believe they can do better and if you believe these things then that is half the battle.
“If you look at the teams he has managed and the success he has had and even with what he has done with the young players in the U-21s so far then you’d be hopeful of that continuing in the senior job. He’ll have built up a relationship with a lot of those young players by now and knowing Stephen he’ll have been at every game all over the UK and Ireland and thinking about when he is going to take the reins. Now is that time and I’m sure he’s absolutely ready to take on that role.”
Rogers said he had some sympathy for Mick McCarthy in not getting to finish the job he started but backed Kenny to have the Republic of Ireland present when Euro 2021 group stage games take place in Dublin.
“You’ve got to feel for Mick,” he said.
“It’s difficult circumstances but it’s what the FAI signed up to. You couldn’t have predicted what has happened but it has affected football all around the world. Not just football but everything really. It’s unprecedented times but the contract is the contract and this is what the FAI has decided to do.
“I’ve no doubt that whoever was in charge would be trying to do their best so there’ll be no issue with application. I’m obviously delighted for Stephen to get the opportunity.
Having worked with him and knowing him, it’s great for him personally to get the job and to now have a shot to get us to the Euros.
“When it comes to those games to qualify for the Euros, you’ll get to see him at his best and hopefully he will work his magic and get the right results,” said Rogers.