Stephen Kenny insists that Hampden Park will witness a Republic of Ireland side with “a new identity” when they take on Scotland.
Steve Clarke’s side rocketed to the top of Nations League Group B1 with an impressive 3-0 home win over Ukraine in midweek, but were beaten well when they lost 3-0 in Dublin in June. .
Scotland have nine points after four games and, with two games remaining, sit two points ahead of Ukraine and five ahead of the Irish, with Armenia a further point back at the bottom.
Republic boss Kenny, speaking at Hampden Park, where he disclosed no injury concerns ahead of Saturday night’s clash, believes his side are thrilling traveling Irish fans (there will officially be 3,000 in green and white at the stadium). national) and those who return home.
The former Dunfermline manager said: “It’s a great occasion with a full house at Hampden.
“It is a very special match and both sets of players are looking forward to it.
“Scotland had a good win on Wednesday and we respect that, but we’ve played well in our last few games.
“This is a new Ireland with a new identity.
“We have given 16 players their international debuts in 18 months and the style of play is something that the Irish public is connecting with in a big way, across the country.
“Wherever we go we are inundated with the people who connect with this team, the mix of youth and experience.
“We had to suffer with some results in the reconstruction process, but we already sold the Aviva, 44,000, for the Armenian game on Tuesday.
“That gives you an indication of the level of support in the country. People are excited about the team. The crowd has been extremely passionate and you would have felt it if you had been at the game against Scotland.
“This will be our biggest away support since I came in, we’ve had Covid issues but Irish fans travel all over the world and it’s going to be a special game.”
Kenny insists he won’t be thinking about the win over Scotland, but insists his side have the potential to improve further.
He said: “This is a different challenge, a new challenge.
“We came into that game against Scotland after losing two games so we were disappointed going into that game.
“But that means we’ve only had three losses in 16, we’ve seen the improvements to go head-to-head with Portugal and play top teams like Belgium and Serbia.
“We can see the evolution of the team. This is a new game. Scotland played very well the other night.
“But Scotland have been very good under Steve Clarke, so whatever we get we have to earn.
“We feel we can improve on some aspects of our performance against Scotland in June.
“We continually strive to improve, we are not at our full potential.”
Kenny was in charge of the Dunfermline side who lost 1–0 to Celtic in the 2007 Scottish Cup Final at Hampden, having entered the game already relegated from the top flight.
The Irish coach’s memories are more personal ahead of his return to the national stadium.
He said: “Obviously it was a long time ago. There was tremendous support from Dunfermline
“We had 18,000 fans, tremendous passion and it had been a great run.
“We played Rangers, Hearts and Hibs on the way to the final and Craig Gordon was in goal for Hearts.
“I had four children under the age of seven in the final, the youngest had only one.
“They come tomorrow and of course the youngest is only 16 and the rest are out of school and out in the real world.
“That gives an indication of how long ago that is.”