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Tuesday 27 June 2017

Kenna: Chris Coleman has star quality

Blackburn memories reveal unlikely manager

Wales manager Chris Coleman. REUTERS
Wales manager Chris Coleman. REUTERS

Jeff Kenna has nothing but good memories of Chris Coleman after their paths crossed at Ewood Park in the season after Blackburn Premier League triumph in 1995.

Bought by Ray Harford for £2.8m to help defend the title, it can't have been easy to slot into a winning dressing room and with a big price on your head.

But Kenna recalls a lad who was a social animal, liked by all and more than willing to live life to the full as a professional footballer.

Oddly enough, it was this very character trait which Kenna felt would stop him ever becoming a manager. He enjoyed life to much to subject himself to the one profession guaranteed to turn coal black hair grey.

Crash

Like the rest of us, Kenna saw the natural leadership qualities Coleman radiated and he reckons that management would never have entered his head but for the fateful car crash in January 2001 which left him with a broken leg and a career in ruins.

"He was a lad's lad, a very social animal and a bit of a star. Nobody really had a bad word to say about him," said Kenna.

"You see people who you pretty much know will be heading in that direction once they finished playing but he would not have been an obvious one. Not because he wouldn't suit it but because he wouldn't want the grief.

"I can't help thinking that the biggest single factor which pushed him towards management was the accident he had.

"Coaching is the obvious path for players who retire but I think if he had a good long career as a player, we'd probably see him as a pundit now

"Obviously enough, when the crash happened, it was a huge moment for him. It made him examine the future maybe for the first time.

Former Ireland international Jeff Kenna was a team-mate of Wales boss Chris Coleman at Blackburn. SPORTSFILE
Former Ireland international Jeff Kenna was a team-mate of Wales boss Chris Coleman at Blackburn. SPORTSFILE

"It's ironic that all the qualities which made him such good company and well thought of are working well for him as a manager.

"He brings people with him easily and I think that's very obvious from watching Wales in France last summer. He would inspire great loyalty and again, you can see that with Wales.

"I haven't heard a bad word out of anyone connected with Wales for a long time now. I think they bought his message from the minute he was appointed.

"No problems in the camp, everyone on the same page. I think it's interesting that the teams like Wales that were together but lacked depth performed so well at the Euros, maybe more than ever before.

"It's worth remembering that Ireland plugged into that a long time ago and funnily enough, I see big echoes of our days together when I look at this bunch under Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane.," claimed the former Ireland defender.

"I haven't worked with Martin but I know plenty of lads who have and they all say the same thing. He has this same quality that Coleman has of bringing people together.

"They can both turn a good player into a fantastic player because of what he will go out and do for them. That's a rare enough ability."

Kenna cannot give Coleman enough credit for the job he did with Wales in France.

"If you examine what he did, it is remarkable. Nobody gave them a chance of getting out of the group and in the end, they just ran out of steam short of the final.

"This is a team with Gareth Bale and let's be honest, no other outstanding player apart from Aaron Ramsey.

"Bale is the clear dangerman for Wales and a phenomenal player.

"Once he's on the pitch, you have to be worried and just hope that he doesn't fire on the day.

"For me Ramsey was the player of the tournament in France and he's the other man Ireland cannot forget next week."

Kenna has also been watching Keane's progress in the management game with interest.

"I think he's watching everything Martin is doing and soaking it all in. He's had some great teachers along the way and another one now.

"I've often thought that he went to Sunderland with an idea that his own version of Alex Ferguson's way of managing would work.

"Now, I think he would do things differently. I think he would use what he has seen and to be honest, I think he could be doing that now if he wanted to.

"Clearly he is happy where he is and I can see why.

"He has time and Ireland are in a good place so why not follow it through."

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