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Getting on good foot

Stevens talks of Kenny's attacking tactics

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Enda Stevens training with Ireland before heading off to Sofia

Enda Stevens training with Ireland before heading off to Sofia

SPORTSFILE

Enda Stevens training with Ireland before heading off to Sofia

Enda Stevens believes that Stephen Kenny can fill in the blanks from the Mick McCarthy era and turn a previously shot-shy Ireland side into one that can take the game to the opposition instead of being on the back foot for long spells.

Monday's training session in Dublin was the first major step taken by the Kenny regime in their bid to make the Irish side a more attacking one, yesterday the team's flight took them to Sofia and today's training session in the match stadium in Bulgaria means that the game is edging closer.

Ireland scored just twice in four away games under McCarthy, once in that scrappy win in Gibraltar and then that late set-piece goal from Shane Duffy in Denmark, poor return from time spent on the road which will have to be rectified if the side are to progress in the Nations League and the Euro 2020 play-offs.

"I think he wants to instill confidence in us to play and be on the front foot," says Stevens, who made his international breakthrough under McCarthy but is hoping for further progress with Kenny.

"With the previous manager, Mick, he tried to do that and it kind of worked for a bit. We played well, we picked up performances and we just didn't get the results. The new manager will come with his own ideas, he still wants us to play front-foot football, we just need to rectify his ideas on the pitch.

"I think he just wants to have an identity, he wants to implement his identity as a way of playing, formation, he wants the players to play the way he feels we should be playing.

"And that's what we've got to work on, the way of playing which we probably didn't have over the last few years.

"The games will help us a lot because we will take an awful lot out of the games.

"We'll learn from our mistakes and we'll grow as a team, we'll get used to each other, we'll build those partnerships on the pitch with each other and hopefully we can put in good performances and win games.

"You want to get into that habit of winning games. Once you're in the habit of winning games, it kind of all falls into place for you."

Stevens was aware of Kenny from the full-back's own time as a League of Ireland player and the pair's links with the domestic game remain strong: Stevens ended up meeting Kenny by chance last month at a game between Bohemians and Dundalk, as Kenny was there on a scouting mission while Stevens, on a well-deserved holiday from Premier League duties, had gone to Dalymount Park to catch up with his old pal Keith Ward, who was playing for Bohs.

So even before the squad arrived in camp on Sunday evening, he had an idea of what Kenny wanted from the Ireland side of 2020.

"He's just a manager who wears his heart on his sleeve, you can see the passion that he has and the dedication he gets into how he wants us to play and how he wants you to really do well.

"There is an opportunity there for us with the games coming up. There are a lot of games over the next season or so.

"He's just really passionate about it, he really cares about it as well," Stevens added.

Just over decade ago, Stevens and Matt Doherty were back home in Dublin, learning the trade of a footballer on an FAI/ETB scheme for footballers in the Bogies in Cabra, and now the pair are established international and Premier League players, Doherty having completed his €16million move to Spurs.

"It's a brilliant move for him. He has come a long way from his Cabra days with FÁS. I'm delighted for him.

"Everyone is delighted for him. It's unbelievable," says Stevens.

"If you look a Matt's stats, his stats are crazy for someone who plays as a wing-back.

"He's scored a lot of goals, he's got a lot of assists over the last two seasons.

"It's something I want to do, I want to add to my game and score a few goals.

"Matt's been excellent as a wing-back over the last few years.

"It's just a new dimension for teams, the way they play, and it's a positive one for us."