Nathan Collins has backed under-pressure Ireland coach Stephen Kenny’s speculation about his future races.
Ireland’s hopes of reaching the Euro 2024 final were dealt a potentially fatal blow on Sunday night when they lost 2-1 to Group B rivals the Netherlands in Dublin on a night they simply needed to win.
Kenny, who is contracted until the end of the campaign, remained steadfast at the final whistle as his critics sharpened their knives, but Brentford defender Collins remains firmly behind the 51-year-old.
Asked if he wanted the manager and his staff to stay, he replied: “One hundred percent.
“I can’t put into words how much work they put in every day and every hour, how many hours they watch other teams. Their whole life revolved around this week.
“He gave me a chance, he let me in and believed in me, he trusts me and all of them. I can’t speak highly enough.”
Kenny replaced Mick McCarthy as manager in April 2020 after leaving the under-21 ranks and has since developed a new generation of young players and attempted to play a more progressive brand of football.
However, while his team won plaudits at times, positive results were difficult to come by and the return of five wins from 26 competitive games speaks for itself.
Defeat to the Dutch left Ireland with just three points from their first five games, 12 points behind leaders France and six behind the Netherlands, who have played a match less, and Greece.
Collins said: “Obviously the table speaks for itself. We need to be proud of ourselves and go into the next game with some pride and make it right.
“We can’t just let this happen. We can’t just let this disappear. We put in so much work. We came so close that we might as well carry on, take the next step to move on and get better, beat teams at home, finish teams home and away, take risks, learn from it and build a team that can beat whoever whatever.”
Cool, whatever you want
Adam Ida opens the goal!pic.twitter.com/NDwoBPwNIf
— Irish Football (@IrelandFootball) September 10, 2023
This month’s double-header – France in Paris last Thursday night and the Dutch at the Aviva Stadium – was always going to look like a tall order against teams ranked second and seventh in the world respectively.
But where the Republicans were comfortably beaten 2-0 at the Parc des Princes, they headed Ronald Koeman’s Netherlands thanks to Adam Ida’s early penalty and could have extended their lead before Cody Gakpo equalized from the spot and paved the way for replacement. Wout Weghorst will win after the break.
Collins said: “Everyone knows we were close to this performance. It’s very frustrating to play against a top team like this. It’s very frustrating.
“The guys put all their effort into this, we put them in a very uncomfortable position, but they showed their level and thus achieved their goal. We should have taken a few more chances in the first half and it would have been a different game.
“But honestly, I’m proud of this performance. We were good, we were strong, we were well-minded, but we didn’t miss our chances.”