Former Republic of Ireland boss Brian Kerr believes the Football Association of Ireland decided to change their senior team manager now because the Euro 2020 play-offs may not be held until next March.
Stephen Kenny officially became Republic manager on Saturday, taking over from Mick McCarthy four months ahead of schedule, following the postponement of the play-offs.
McCarthy could have stayed on to complete the Euro 2020 qualifying campaign but with no certainty over when the play-offs will take place, Kerr says the FAI made the right call.
“The next game is not going to be the play-off game, and that was probably one of the main reasons why they decided to go with Stephen now,” said Kerr.
“As I understand it, there will be Nations League games, possibly World Cup qualifiers, played in the autumn before the play-off matches.
“There is no rush on Uefa to play those play-off games.”
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The Republic will take on Slovakia away in the play-offs, while Northern Ireland travel to Bosnia-Herzegovina – with the winners meeting to secure a place at the Euro 2020 finals, which are now taking place next summer.
It was anticipated the play-offs would be staged in September, which would see thrust Kenny straight into a high-pressure qualifier in his first game in charge. However, Kerr has another theory.
“The finals have been put back to 2021, so it is quite possible those play-offs may not be played until March next year,” he said.
“If that is the case, there is no rush so from the FAI point of view, it made sense for Stephen to start now.”
Kerr managed the Republic from 2003 to 2005 and, like Kenny, is a former Shamrock Rovers boss and also coached the nation’s underage international teams before stepping up to the senior job.
He says Kenny can expect a lot more scrutiny than he has experienced in any previous role.
“I’m sure Michael O’Neill also found that when he moved on from Shamrock Rovers and became manager of Northern Ireland,” added Kerr.
“The intensity of the analysis and the scrutiny and the number of people who are interested in the national team is much bigger.
“Everyone in the country has an interest, suddenly, so that’s what Stephen will have to deal with, that extra element of pressure.
“It has got easier to quality for tournaments now in that there are more places available, and you can see that with the Republic.
“We won no games in the Nations League and yet we’re still in a position where we’re in a play-off to get to the Euros having only won three games in the group.
“We don’t have a group of exceptional players or high-achieving players but Stephen knows the players coming through.”
‘Every chance he will be successful’
Kenny won four League of Ireland titles in five years with Dundalk but had success elsewhere with clubs which included Derry City and Bohemians.
Kerr thinks he will improve the Republic’s playing style and is supportive of his promotion to the senior job.
“All you can go on is his previous record and in almost every job he has been in he has achieved,” added Kerr.
“He has won leagues, he has won cups, he had an immediate impact on the Under-21s and put them into contention to qualify (for the Euro 2021 championships) for the first time, so given that record and that experience he is entitled to go at it.
“His style is adventurous, attacking and courageous football.
“He achieved some superb results really, so on the basis of that there is every chance he is going to be successful.”