Kvist aims for upper hand on old Wigan pal
'You could always count on McClean' says Denmark star
They will be foes on the field of play in Copenhagen tonight, but it's not so long ago that James McClean and Danish midfielder William Kvist were team-mates at a struggling Wigan Athletic side.
Kvist has already been to a major tournament with his country but, at 32, the 2018 World Cup finals could be his last opportunity, so there's a great deal at stake for him and his nation tonight, with McClean a major blockage in their road to Russia.
He has been thinking about Ireland, and McClean, a lot lately, Kvist taking to social media with a taunt of his old team-mate which was very Danish. He posted a picture of himself outside the Parken Stadium, with his bike, and asked McClean if he was still driving the Maserati he had at Wigan.
"If James forgets to put some gas in his car it won't go anywhere but I can get where I want on my bike," Kvist tells the Herald, happily admitting his love for two wheels over four.
"I cycle every day, I went to a Champions League game on a bike, I do it every day, it's a very Danish thing to do.
"We were at Wigan together and he was crazy then as he is now. We had a lot of good laughs together, he's not the prettiest guy in the world but I like him. I did 20 nutmegs on him that year in training and he was a bit cross with me, but he's a good guy.
"That facebook post was a joke asking James what car he was driving now. I hope he answers me before the game.
"I loved playing with him as he was such a big-hearted player, he always gave 101%, he was loyal to our team even though we really struggled that season, he was an honest player as you could always count on James," adds the Dane, aware of the trauma which McClean endures annually at this time of the year over his stance on the poppy.
"I like players who show emotion and have values they stick to, you can agree or disagree but you know they stand for something."
Kvist is back in Denmark, with FC Copenhagen after his spell in England and his time there has steeled him for what's to come tonight.
"I have played in the Championship so I know what a battle is like and tonight could be like that. If you go there tonight and expect a nice game, tippy-tappy football, I think you will come away disappointed," says Kvist, likely to start alongside the classy Thomas Delaney in a two-man midfield barrier in front of the Danish defence.
"We will have more of the ball and we have to try and penetrate as much as we can. The Irish team will be reluctant to take risks so we have to try and open them up, there will be a lot of duels, fights for the second ball. We have to be focused on our possession.
"We know that Ireland's counter-attacks, mainly from James, are very dangerous, the Irish spirit is fantastic, the fighting mentality and we need to match that but also be effective in our scoring chances, Ireland is a well-drilled team, they know how to defend and then counter-attack so we need to be aware of that.
"Having 50,000 fans in your back yard on Tuesday will be big for Ireland so we have to be wary of that too we have to go all-out for a win tonight. We hope that we have done well in the first leg so Ireland need to come and attack in the second leg, that would leave gaps for us to exploit."
And it's clear that a World Cup dream is not just an Irish thing. "It's a big deal for us. We won the Euros in '92, back in '86 we had the World Cup with Laudrup and those guys so we have a rich heritage to live up to," says Kvist, Denmark's vice-captain.
"We haven't qualified for the last two major tournaments so this World Cup is a big thing for us, this might be my last chance to get to a big tournament with my country and I would love to put an end to this run of not qualifying."