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Leave the boos at home says Owen Coyle


owen coyle

owen coyle

Aiden mcGeady

Aiden mcGeady


owen coyle

AS A highly-promising young striker back in the 1980s, Owen Coyle had a big decision to make on his international allegiance.

The Scottish-born striker opted to throw in his lot with Ireland and, in some sort of a prequel to the experience facing James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady in Glasgow on Friday night, the then Dumbarton player made his first appearance for Ireland in his native Scotland, Coyle on the wrong end of a 4-1 defeat for the Irish U21s in Edinburgh back in February 1987.

It turned out to be a meagre return for Coyle: two U21 caps (1987), two B caps (1990-92) and a single senior cap against Holland (1994), meagre in the sense that a career with Scotland could have offered him more, though it's not a source of anger for the Glasgow man, now 48.

"It was a huge thing for my family to see me represent Ireland, and I finally won my one, elusive full cap against Holland in a friendly before the 1994 World Cup. It was a fantastic journey. I have no regrets," says Coyle.

McGeady and McCarthy have never expressed regret over their decision to opt for Ireland over their native land,. though many Scottish fans, encouraged by some rather loose and immature talk from people like Gordon Strachan and Gordon McQueen in the last week, will be given food for thought if they play against their native land in Glasgow on Friday night, though it seems as if injury will rule out McCarthy.

And Coyle, who got stick from Scottish fans when he wore the green jersey in an U21 game at Easter Road back in '87, feels that Scottish fans who jeer McGeady and McCarthy but welcome non-native Scots into their fold are being hypocrites.

"With all due respect, I feel it would be slightly hypocritical for Scotland fans to get too serious about it all because there are players in the Scotland team who were not born in Scotland. It certainly won't affect James or Aiden," Coyle believes.

"To be involved in football, you have to have a thick skin and these guys are two terrifically talented players who would play in the Scotland team all day long.

"Supporters maybe aren't aware of all the circumstances that lead someone to make such a decision either. It was a different era when I chose to play for Ireland and I think supporters who knew the game could understand it.

no abuse

"I was fine. I didn't get abuse. With the type of personality I had, I would like to think I would have been able to deal with it anyway," says Coyle, who took the offer from Jack Chartlon to join the Ireland fold in 1987.

"I had been born and brought up in the Gorbals within an Irish family in an area that was known as 'mini-Donegal'.

"We were brought up within an Irish culture and spent three months over the summer in Ireland," he says.

"It was probably much simpler for me. I love Scotland and I am proud of where I was born, but I was close to Ireland. It was not a tough decision to make.

"From a footballing perspective, I might also have looked at the Scotland squad and felt I would only make it onto the bench as well."

Sectarianism has a regular place at the table of the Scottish game and that, says Coyle, could play a part in the crowd's reception for McCarthy and McGeady on Friday.

"I would like to think that anti-Irish sentiment is not a part of our modern society. I hope we have moved on, but it would probably be naive to think that there won't be some people who come along to give them a bit of stick with something of an agenda. The main thing is that it doesn't get vitriolic," he added.

"It is pantomime, I think that sums it up. The game has evolved in many ways and the supporting of football has changed as well. When I played, fans would often applaud a member of the opposition team as they recognised his talent. It is different now, though, and some supporters do now come along to abuse players. If that is the case during this game, so be it.

"James and Aiden will probably get some stick, but it should be because the supporters are simply upset that they chose to play for Ireland above Scotland and nothing else."