Ireland's Chiedozie Ogbene has praised former Ireland manager Stephen Kenny for "building strong foundations" in the Ireland squad.
Kenny and the FAI (Football Association of Ireland) agreed to part ways last week after another disappointing qualifying tournament, but his work with the younger players is one of the highlights of his reign. Since taking the job in 2020, Kenny gave 24 players their Ireland debuts. This included the likes of Nathan Collins, Gavin Bazunu, Troy Parrott, and Ogbene himself.
Ogbene, a Cork native, made his debut against Hungary in 2021 and has not looked back. He's quickly become one of Ireland's best players and is starting to make a name for himself at Luton Town.
The 26-year-old believes that Kenny's legacy will be best remembered for the work he did with him and the other young Ireland players that are now fully fledged members of the Ireland squad. The Luton player believes that Kenny's legacy will make the future brighter for the current and future Ireland squads.
“Steve Kenny and his team have built a strong foundation for the future of Ireland football,” said Ogbene to the Irish Times. “What they have done in the past few years was phenomenal. They have changed the philosophy, the mentality of the system. They obviously brought me and a lot of young players in. These players now have a bright future for Ireland. That’s credit to him and his vision.”
Ogbene's rise in English football has been a quick one. An unknown talent to many playing for the likes of Cork City and Limerick, the Ireland winger made the move to Brentford in 2019. After several loan spells, he produced his best work at League One side Rotherham United. His move to Premier League side Luton Town in 2023 has come after his Ireland displays.
Ogbene believes that his experience on the international stage playing against the likes of Portugal, France, and the bigger teams has given him confidence to excel in England's top league.
“Playing international football is the highest level of football, and I was playing that for two years so when I came to the Premier League, yes, I was proud of myself for being here, but I had earned respect, having played against countries like France, Belgium, and Portugal," he added.
“It meant that I could come in with confidence, not arrogance, that I am not just here to get a chance, I am here because I worked my way up. I am getting the reward that I deserve. When I play at this level, I try to embrace it and play with confidence.”