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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Babb urges Trap to allow McClean to shine at Euros

IRISH international and hero of the 1994 World Cup Phil Babb believes that not only should James McClean be on the plane for Poland and the Ukraine, he should be in Trap's starting XI.

The former Liverpool and Sunderland defender, capped 35 times for Ireland, is a great admirer of the 22-year-old Derry native and believes he is the perfect man to terrorise defenders down the left flank at Euro 2012.

"I'm a great believer of picking players on current form," Babb said.

"A lot of managers have faith in players that have shown in the past -- they're hoping they can reignite that going into big tournaments, but it's all about keeping momentum going and he is a player who is full of confidence tearing up the Premier League at the moment.

"Even if he didn't play (against the Czech Republic next week) I would still take him. I think he just adds a different dynamic. You've got Aiden (McGeady) on the wing, you've got Duffer on the other side, good technical players, but they haven't taken games by the scruff of the neck lately.

"We've had great results in the qualifying campaign, but I'm afraid they've lost their form and they haven't really been impact players. McClean can be an impact player. If he's coming from the bench or he's going to start.

"They must be looking at him at Sunderland going 'wow!' He's doing it week-in and week-out. I think he's definitely a candidate to start in my opinion."

Babb knows all about the benefits of coming in late to a qualifying campaign before a major championship.

The defender, Jason McAteer and Gary Kelly -- dubbed the "three amigos" -- were catapulted into the World Cup squad by Jack Charlton in 1994 and the trio featured heavily at the finals.

"It was great because we could bounce off each other. You had the experienced lads who had been in that squad for six or seven years. They had been to Italia 90 so for us it was new and exciting," he added.

"I think we just added a different dynamic, it was fun for us. A lot of them were coming towards the end of their international career as well so we were never a threat to them.

"It was the best footballing experience of my career."

Babb, who had a successful career at Portuguese club Sporting Lisbon, believes McClean's first international call-up will be a walk in the park compared to his.

His first experience of being involved with Ireland was the nailbiting 1-1 draw at Windsor Park in autumn 1993 when Alan McLoughlin's stunning volley sent us to America.

He recalls vividly the caustic atmosphere around Belfast: "My first squad was the last qualifying game against the North.

"I remember people coming up to the coach making pistol signs at us, things being thrown at the coach, it was certainly an intimidating atmosphere.

"Obviously with the result, Alan McLoughlin scores and we get through. All the lads were going mental, but I wasn't a part of that campaign so it was quite difficult to be as emotional as the other lads.

"It's all happening around me and I'm thinking: 'What's going on?'"

Babb and his amigos would go on to feature in impressive victories over Holland and Germany in World Cup warm-ups and believes McClean will have to make a similar impact next week.

"It was a great start and then with the David O'Leary testimonial. Then we had the game against Holland where we had a great result and the game against Germany we won as well. So I think I got bedded in a bit faster than James will.

"He's got one game to prove his worth really. We had a couple against big-name opposition."

Babb believes Ireland have the tactics and the work ethic to cause some shocks at the finals this summer.

"They have the potential in the current team to take big scalps. It is not impossible to get out of that group in the European championships.

"It might be messy, but they can do it. I don't think we're ever going to play free-flowing Spanish-style football."

While McClean has been given his chance, Babb ruled out giving Norwich pair Anthony Pilkington and Wes Hoolahan their international opportunity for the time being, but believes a controversial figure could yet play a part.

"I think the tournament has come too early for them (Pilkington and Hoolahan)," he said. "I might try a curve ball and say Stephen Ireland. I don't see why we can't extend the olive branch to him.

"He's still a very good player. He's got a chance to play in a major tournament so why wouldn't he do it? When you're playing against the likes of Spain you need that little creative spark."

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