Steve Neville slams the decision to bring Shay Given back into the Ireland squad following his retirement.
Toward the end of Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign as Ireland manager, there was a cloud of negativity surrounding Irish football unlike any seen before. The turnstiles turned a little less, the press slammed Il Trap and only Liam Brady seemed to have a good word to say about the Italian.
The stars of the past were aging, the tactics were predictable and the performances uninspiring.
But out of the ashes came an unlikely partnership in Martin O’ Neill and Roy Keane.
Fans rejoiced, the clouds cleared and there was some brightness for Irish football. However, in the wake of Shay Given’s return from international football, this writer cannot shrug the sense that those bleak clouds are swarming in the distance.
Shay Given was a wonderful keeper, serving Ireland successfully and giving most fans a sense of pride that we could boast such a talented shot stopper. But note the word ‘was’.
Given is still good, but he’s 38. Ireland cannot continue to rely on their weathered heroes of old. It is high time for new heroes to arise, new warriors to pull on the green and either live or die by the sword.
With a new management team in position and going into a new qualification cycle, we should not be looking at the past, but towards the future.
David Forde has been passed the mantle of Irish number 1 and has performed admirably. He is the first choice for his club, Millwall, and he rarely disappoints. Excellent under the high ball, Forde deserves to be first choice stopper. His international performances have seen him put in some fine shifts, including a fine debut against Sweden. Forde looks comfortable to be first choice.
And then we look at the deputies. Kieren Westwood looked to set to be leading a Premier League career after Simon Mignolet joined Liverpool but injury at Sunderland followed by good form from his counterpart Vito Mannone led to his downfall. He now finds himself at Hillsborough tending goal for Sheffield Wednesday.
Form has not been hard to find for the former Coventry man. Four games in and it’s four games started for Westwood with his side lying in sixth with a credible eight points. Westwood looks set to remain between the sticks for the foreseeable future and will be setting his sights on reclaiming his Ireland spot.
Then we have Darren Randolph. The youngest of our current trio of goalkeepers at 27 – Forde is 34 and Westwood 28 – he too currently finds himself as a first choice club keeper. Playing for Birmingham he has started the opening four games of the Championship and a few Irish starts may not be a million miles away.
Randolph’s two caps to date both came from the substitutes bench, the first in 2012 against Oman, his second a year later against then world champions Spain. A decent, albeit brief, showing against the Spanish coupled with some good early form should give O’ Neill and Keane something to think about.
But then we come back to Given. Roy Keane will know better than any of us whether the Donegal man is still capable of playing at the standard required for international football. However, maybe it’s time find someone else who is capable. The argument for Given to come in and offer guidance and leadership is fine, but he won’t be around forever.
If the Ireland squad revert to times gone by and continue to look to Given as a leader in the squad, where do the new leaders come from?
It’s high time some of the so-called ‘kids’ in the Ireland squad grew up. It’s time for the Seamus Colemans, the James McCarthys and the Shane Longs to raise their hand and be counted as the leaders to carry us into Euro 2016.
Even Forde and Westwood can and should become strong voices in the Ireland camp. People stated O’ Neill coming in marked a new era for the Republic of Ireland. So why bring back players from the old one?
Steve Neville, Pundit Arena.