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Saturday 19 October 2019

It's the back roads, not private jets, for Robbie now - Kerr

MENTOR: Brian Kerr with the European Championship trophy. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
MENTOR: Brian Kerr with the European Championship trophy. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

How do you get from Crewe to Rochdale?

Probably not the question uppermost in Robbie Keane's mind - not something you worry about when you've played for clubs like Liverpool, Inter Milan and Tottenham and you are one of the highest-scoring players in the history of international football.

But dealing with issues like that will be among the main challenges for Keane as he heads into his new role with Ireland as coach on Mick McCarthy's management team, according to his former mentor Brian Kerr.

Kerr is well placed to judge the new elements of the FAI's international set-up: he was managing Ireland's youth teams (very successfully it has to be said) when McCarthy was first in charge of the senior side, and then took over as boss in 2003.

Kerr also spotted the early potential in Stephen Kenny, adding him to his own backroom team with the Irish youths for a spell in 2000.

He knows what it's like to go from being a League of Ireland manager to Ireland manager; he knows how hard it is to manage Ireland while living in Ireland.

And Kerr also knows that the job as McCarthy's No 3 will be a test for Keane.

"He's got to have the enthusiasm for scraping now which he might not have had," Kerr says of Keane.

"It's different; the biggest difference for a playing going to be a coach or a manager is the time and commitment and the unending requirements to do things like go to matches, follow up on leads, check out a player.

"And it's not always private jets and a pick-up in a limousine and a bloke from the association. It's often about scraping and how do you get from Crewe to Rochdale or Macclesfield. And unfortunately our players are going that way."

Kerr recalls a time when, as Ireland boss (2003-5) he could attend a Premier League game between, say, Spurs and Aston Villa and get to see half a dozen Irish players involved. But that's not the case any more.

"It's not like that now. If you want to see the players and evaluate you have to be good on either the road network in England or Scotland or the train timetable or have a lot of good mates who are prepared to drive you around and fit in matches that are on at 2pm, 4pm and 'can I make another one?'," Kerr says.

He admits to being baffled by the set-up which sees McCarthy leave the senior job in 2020, no matter how he fares.

"The first time I heard it, I thought it was bizarre and I still think that it's bizarre. It might well work out," says Kerr.

"I wasn't surprised that Mick was offered a job and I wasn't surprised to hear that initially Stephen turned down the U-21s given the role he had.

"But I am surprised by the whole set up. It appears to say: 'Mick you're good enough for a while but only for a while - we have a fella that we know is going to be better than you lined up once we give him a bit of experience at a different level.

"As I understand it Stephen won't be there for the whole U-21 campaign, it's a bit haphazard, it looks like we have a plan but didn't think it through all the way."

  • Brian Kerr was speaking at the launch of Volkswagen's partnership as Official Mobility Partner of UEFA ahead of the Euro 2020 draw in the Convention Centre.

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