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Wednesday 17 October 2018

Get best out of Tobbie and Jeff - time to call up Rice

A dejected Robbie Brady consoles team-mate Jeff Hendrick (r) after the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier play-off defeat to Denmark at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
A dejected Robbie Brady consoles team-mate Jeff Hendrick (r) after the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup qualifier play-off defeat to Denmark at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

I have been in a dressing room with Martin O'Neill. I know how happy he is after a big victory and how angry he is after a heavy defeat so he will be hurting this week.

When he left Aston Villa the club fell apart, he had kept everyone together, motivated. He will be bitterly disappointed with Tuesday but if he feels he can put a plan in place then he should carry on.

It's too simplistic to blame the manager for what happened against Denmark.

We have not been great, in terms of style of play, throughout the tournament but Tuesday night was a case where everyone got it wrong. The team selection was wrong, the players made individual errors and it was a collective failure. The tactics, the substitutions, the concentration, everything was wrong.

We can try to pat ourselves on the back by saying the team had done well to make the play-offs, and you have to admit that Denmark are a good side.

But it comes back to the first leg, Ireland could have given it more in Copenhagen as the 0-0 draw put them under huge pressure to then win in Dublin.

He should stay on as manager, but he needs a plan. Once Ireland are organised and have a plan, the players will always give 100% and that can take you so far.

We have 16 months before the next traditional qualifier, if the manager feels he can organise things better, have a team that uses the ball better, then he should stay.

It might be a passing game, it might be the long ball, but once everyone knows what the plan is, that's fine. The long ball worked for Jack Charlton, it doesn't have to be pretty. Once the ball went into the opposition half, that's when they started to pass it and that's when they had success as you had bodies running up in support. But this Ireland team doesn't do that.

You need to find a way to get the likes of Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick into games because they are not doing anything at the moment, and maybe that's from their fear of playing for Ireland, or the tactics they are told to use.

They are two of our best players and we need to utilise them better than we are now.

I can't say what goes on behind the dressing room door with Ireland now but you have five or six days in a hotel to prepare the players. On Tuesday it didn't look like the team were prepared.

If they had been prepared by the management then it's the players' fault for what happened but if they weren't given the proper information by the staff, then that's a big failing by the management.

For the first goal, the way that Jeff Hedrick was late running out to help defend the corner and the position he took going to the wrong opposing player, was a mistake and it's up to the players and the manager to sort out where the fault was.

The way we played in the qualifying campaign wasn't great but still no one expected a defensive performance as bad as the one we gave on Tuesday.

The way the Irish team opened up... they didn't seem to have any organisation and were torn apart.

Then the half-time substitutions finished us off. We should have waited an extra 20 minutes into the second half, try to get a foothold into the game and take it from there.

To me, it looked like the Irish team was tired after 25 minutes, they had done that much chasing around. I noticed after around 25 minutes where Robbie Brady and James McClean both tried something, and they both looked knackered. And within a couple of minutes Denmark had the first goal, then the second and it was game over.

We have to hope that we do come back and that Tuesday was just a case of mis-coaching, players freezing on the big occasion, it needs to be spoken about and dealt with so we are not stuck in the situation again.

Where do we go from here? Gone are the days when players forced their way into the senior Ireland team. When players like myself came through we had done well at club level, we forced our way in with good form for good clubs.

You do have lads like Declan Rice at West Ham.

Ireland now need to do what Wales have done with the likes of Ben Woodburn, put young players in the shop window by giving them caps and experience.

Someone like Rice is doing well for the Ireland U21s and getting games for West Ham, so give him a chance at senior level.

If he does well there, someone will be forced to play him, either at West Ham or somewhere else where they have bought buy him because they have seen him with Ireland.

We don't have a conveyor belt of players so we need to start producing them and giving them a chance, instead of waiting for Premier League clubs to give them a chance.

I knew it was time for me to retire from the Ireland team when it dawned on me I wouldn't have made it to the next tournament, I didn't want to start and then quit half-way through.

It's up to the players as individuals to decide. Jon Walters missed a lot of the campaign so he might decide he doesn't want to go out on a low, he will want to play on. But it's it's a big decision to stop playing for your country.

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