Sunday 18 November 2018

Smiley Cyrus admits it's a big ask to fill Coleman's boots

Ireland full-back Cyrus Christie, pictured yesterday in training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Ireland full-back Cyrus Christie, pictured yesterday in training. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

It's no coincidence that the Republic of Ireland have been on the slide since captain Séamus Coleman suffered his leg break at home to Wales in March.

And while Middlesbrough defender Cyrus Christie has done a good job in place of Coleman at right-back in the Irish side, Christie admits that the No. 2 shirt is only on loan from the Everton player and Christie knows he will stand aside once Coleman is fit to play again.

Martin O'Neill has a few issues to grapple with as he picks his XI to face Moldova tomorrow night, his midfield formation a real puzzler for the 64-year-old, but this week the back four picks itself, with Christie and Stephen Ward manning the full back slots.

Christie, the only man in the likely starting XI tomorrow night to have never played in the Premier League or in Europe, is still learning on the job and his time as Coleman's understudy has not been blemish-free, as he's had to learn on the job.

"I have got big boots to fill with Séamus and people will always judge me on that. We are two different players and we do have similar attributes. It is a tough role to fill and I feel I'm doing OK and learning and growing," says Christie.

"It probably wouldn't be football if people didn't compare so for me, it's fine. I just go out there and do my job, give 110 per cent. I just want to do well. I spoke to Séamus a few times. I just want to do well for him as well, he's been fantastic and integral part of the squad. For him to have the injury, it's such a shame."

Coleman, despite his injury - and there's still no set date for his return to action - remains a key figure in the squad, coming to Dublin to show his support, and he is also offering words of advice to Christie.

"He just speaks to me, asks how well I'm doing," says Christie.

"He messages me throughout the season as well and, you know, he gives me a lot of confidence.

"I spoke to him many a time and he just tells me to go out there and play my own game. I've done really well when I have played and he wants me to carry on.

"The only thing he tells me is to not score any more so he can catch me up," the Boro man joked.

"But other than that, he gives me advice which is great for me because he's one of the best full backs in the world.

"When he broke his leg, I was in shock. As much as it's a team game, it's an individual game but that wasn't my thinking at all. For me, for the lads, we'd lost a big part of the squad, you need your main players, your key players and he is one of them and he is a big loss of them."

Christie admits that it's been hard of late with the national team but he feels Russia is still in sight. "We know what we're capable of," he says.

"We were unfortunate against Serbia, that was a game I think we should have won, we were the better team throughout, and we let ourselves down in Georgia.

"It's out of our minds now, we've moved on. We have to learn from our mistakes and put them right tomorrow.

"Obviously everyone keeps touching on the Wales game but these games are always trickier against the lower teams because they put 11 men behind the ball. Our full focus is on Moldova now and we'll worry about the Wales game when we come to it."

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