Rea: Ireland U21s shouldn't fear Italy
Brighton boy Glen Rea believes that Ireland's U21 side have no reason to fear a classy Italy side in Waterford tomorrow, Ireland hunting for the win they need to stay in contention for European Championship qualification.
After a superb start of three successive wins (and clean sheets), Noel King's side have dropped down the table, to fourth in their six-team group, on the back of defeats to Italy (3-1) and Italy (1-0), though wins from the forthcoming games at home to Italy (tomorrow) and away to Slovenia (Monday) would put the Irish side right back in the frame.
Italy have some Serie A regulars in their side (defender Andrea Rugani has appeared in the Champions League and the Italian league for Juventus while midfielder Danilo Cataldi played in Europe for Lazio) while Irish midfielder Rea is now on loan in England's fourth tier, with Luton Town.
But the 21-year-old is confident that Ireland can turn over the Italians.
"We still have a massive chance, I feel. In the away game with Italy, I certainly don't think we could have lost the game. So it's a test but the squad are confident and we feel we can get something out of the game," says Rea, a Brighton native who qualifies for Ireland through his Cork-born grandfather.
"We did well out in Italy and didn't deserve to lose, we draw confidence from that as they come here. We can certainly beat them.
"Taking on Italy is a big challenge, they have players at the top clubs but we have played them already and played well in Italy, we know what they are about and we can get the win. Qualifying is still the aim and it would be massive for us as a group, and for Irish football, if we can get there. It will be tough to qualify but we'll give it our all. I hope to play a part," added Rea. Naturally a defender, Rea has been used in midfield by U21 boss Noel King and with key players like Alan Browne, Sean Kavanagh and Tommie Hoban all missing due to injury and suspension, Rea's experience and midfield presence will be vital.
A fan of home-town club Brighton since he was a boy, Rea has played twice for Chris Hughton's side this season but is now on loan to Luton, his second spell away.
"I am probably playing for my future as my contract's up at the end of the season, I try to better myself in every game I can. I want a future at Brighton, it's my club, but I have to see what happens."