"It surprised us" - Stephen Kenny reacts to criticism from Jurgen Klopp

“It surprised us” – Stephen Kenny reacts to criticism from Jurgen Klopp

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It felt like one of those meetings with Stephen Kenny where there was something for everyone in the audience.

As is usual at this time of year, with the English Football League season just beginning and the Premier League starting on Friday, there was no shortage of material.

If anything, there were too many basics to go into detail.

In no particular order, Kenny discussed the loss of first-team coach John Eustace and plans for a replacement; Aaron Connolly’s move to Serie B and opening up about his struggles as ‘Irish football’s forgotten man’; how Nathan Collins would deal with being the most expensive Irish signing in history following his £20m move to Wolves; the fighting spirit of Matt Doherty; and how Kenny’s son Eoin, who represented Northern Ireland at U18 level last week, did so with his blessing as he is ‘his own man’.

Buried in all this, Kenny also admitted how he feared losing the chance to become a senior manager as U21 boss as he settled on bloody teenagers like Collins, Troy Parrott and Jason Knight who are still for the U19 levels were eligible.

“It was a risk because if I hadn’t done well as Under-21s coach I might not have gotten the senior post,” he said in a wide-ranging response, acknowledging the succession arrangement had been arranged for him to take over from Mick McCarthy could have derailed.

“You know how things happen. You can’t be sure. In life you can never be sure.”

Ireland coach Stephen Kenny.

Credit: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

All of this at one of the FAI’s Intersport Elverys Summer Soccer Schools in Tullamore, before he even had a chance to raise the issue that Jurgen Klopp was apparently upset that Caoimhin Kelleher had returned to Liverpool’s pre-season training camp with a groin injury, which was what he said was picked up at some point during the four Nations League games in Ireland in June and downplayed by FAI medical staff.

“Yes, Caoimh felt something after the international match and everyone, the medical department there, told him he was fine and would be fine after the holiday,” Klopp told the club’s website last week.

Liverpool v Strasbourg preseason friendly Anfield

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp.

Source: PA

“He came back and trained first, felt it again. We checked it and it wasn’t good so I think Caoimh will need another two, three weeks and then he should be fine.

While Klopp isn’t quite pointing the finger at the Ireland line-up for staying with an injured player for an intense 10-day period, Anfield’s words have raised eyebrows.

“I have to say it surprised us,” Kenny admitted.

“I wasn’t even aware that he was injured [while in camp in June], to be honest. If he had been injured he would have been out of practice or not trained.

I would have played comfortably against Mark Travers because he really excelled in training camp and it looks like he’s up a notch again. If Caoimhin hadn’t been right, I would have chosen Mark with complete confidence. That was a surprise for me to see that [from Klopp].

“I haven’t spoken to him (Kelleher) personally but I got the impression he had an injury that would keep him out for a short time.”

With the Liverpool manager stating Kelleher will be out of action by the end of this month, and Gavin Bazunu set to be Southampton’s first choice following his £12million move from Manchester City, not to mention the creation of Travers at Bournemouth ahead Another top league campaign , Kenny admitted there is no guaranteed starter between the posts.

“No, listen, the reality is there is no No. 1. We hurt Gavin, we hurt Caoimhin in different camps. It is a competitive area and will remain a competitive area.

“The competitive element is important and you can’t say that anyone has absolutely established themselves as No. 1. It still is. That competitive element will be important,” Kenny added, explaining how Bazunu’s move to Southampton will be an asset to take the shirt for next month’s Nations League games with Scotland and Armenia.

“It gives him a great opportunity and so does Mark at Bournemouth. It’s interesting to see.”

Kenny is considering attending Southampton’s opening game of the Premier League season at Tottenham Hotspur on Saturday, who may or may not start with Matt Doherty after a preseason in which he struggled for fitness and managed 60 minutes against Roma.

israel-tottenham-roma

Source: AP/PA Images

“He showed that he can fight for his place. When he first came in he had a period where it didn’t work for him at Tottenham, there was talk of him moving to other clubs,” Kenny said.

When I talked to him, he never thought about it. He was very determined to make it work there. He fought hard to regain his place. He’s an important player for us. Hopefully he gets a run. It would be great for us if he did that.”

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Collins’ move to Wolves means Ireland will have another Premier League player this year, although despite Ireland’s record – £20million – Kenny insists the defender still has work to do to oust those already at Molineux are.

“The question, will the transfer fee be a burden on Nathan? I do not think so. It is not guaranteed that he will play for Wolves. It’s very competitive with Conor Coady, an England international, and Max Kilman was in the England squad.

“Willy Boly is there too so he has to earn playing rights but I’m sure he’ll play a lot of games over the course of the season.”

That was the start of the discussion on Connolly’s situation, the young striker who loaned out Brighton for Venezia in Serie B. Last week he spoke candidly about his struggles and the need to leave England to jumpstart his career.

“Aaron has a lot of talent, a lot of good qualities. We are all learning and we cannot be sure of anything. You can’t shut the door on anyone, especially someone who’s only 22 and has yet to see his prime,” Kenny said.

“When he played in the under-21 team and initially broke through in Brighton’s first-team, Mick was [McCarthy] brought him to the senior team after his two goals against Tottenham.

“He was a brilliant dribbler. You could play him on the left and he would turn people around, he could dribble fast and accelerate into the game. That didn’t seem to be part of his game anymore, his ability to dribble.

“He might just have fallen in love with the game a little bit, he said that. He spoke about his work rate and his ability to press, but those are all things that can be corrected. He just needs to find a team to thrive in, but it’s not easy.

“Hopefully he can rekindle his love for the game and he can thrive because he’s still very young.”

Republic of Ireland manager Stephen Kenny traveled to Leah Victoria Park to visit INTERSPORT Elverys FAI Summer Soccer Schools camp at Tullamore Town FC.

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