'An out-and-out 100 per cent lunatic and one of the first names on team-sheet' - Stephen Hunt's glowing tribute to James McClean
The celebrations in the Irish dressing room after the Wales game may have seemed over the top and...
The celebrations in the Irish dressing room after the Wales game may have seemed over the top and...
Like the Ireland manager, Martin O'Neill, I have said all along that I thought this World Cup group would come down to the final game in Cardiff. And like Martin, I believe we can win tomorrow and...
It might take years before we see a significant improvement in the senior team with young naturally-gifted footballers in every position, but...
On the day I signed for Reading, I was introduced to a young Irish kid called Kevin Doyle. I had been in England for eight years, whereas he had just joined the club from Cork City after a couple of...
As another qualifying campaign reaches its conclusion, inevitably we start to look at who will be the Ireland manager moving on to the qualification for the Euro finals in 2020 and beyond.
Our crucial game against Wales next month is going to be a tight, heated affair, like a local derby, and it might be that we will need a surprise package to come off the bench to win it for Ireland. And that man could be Sean Maguire.
If there is one thing that will have hurt and disappointed Martin O'Neill more than anything from the Serbia defeat, it is that we looked like a desperate side for the last five minutes. But we are not. This team has shown, like against Italy, that they are a quality side.
There will be plenty of cheap shots aimed at the Ireland team in the run-up to Tuesday's massive game against Serbia in Dublin but Martin O'Neill and his players just need a sense of calm in the camp and a quiet determination to prove people wrong.
With almost a full week of build-up before the return to the World Cup qualifiers, the Republic of Ireland squad have plenty of time to be prepared for a tricky trip to Georgia at a strange time of the season.
There have not been many better centre forwards in the Premier League era than Diego Costa. If, or when, he gets his move back to Atletico Madrid, he is going to be sorely missed by the champions.
I know we've missed it but when the Premier League kick-off came around at Arsenal on Friday night, I wasn't really up for it. My mind was on the second round of the USPGA and today's hurling semi-final. But they had me in two minutes.
As we come to terms with the mind-boggling world record transfer of Neymar, it is worth asking how much impact it will have on the outcome of the...
The transfer window is well and truly open. Two goalkeepers have joined Manchester City and Everton for a combined £64m. The madness has...
No-ONE will be particularly worried about the outcome of the second friendly today when Uruguay come to town, but it would be nice for Martin O’Neill and the team to get a positive performance and result before the big one next Sunday.
A month is a long time to keep players fully fit, concentrated and in peak condition — mentally and physically — for an important World Cup qualifier and that will have been one of Martin O’Neill’s biggest challenges of the last few weeks.
A month is a long time to keep players fully fit, concentrated and in peak condition - mentally and physically - for an important World Cup qualifier and that will have been one of Martin O'Neill's biggest challenges of the last few weeks.
At the start of season I backed Jurgen Klopp to lift the Premier League title in his first full season at Liverpool. Even when they faltered at New Year and failed to win when Sadio Mane played in the African Cup of Nations in January, I continued to believe they would do it.
If any manager can deal with the pressures of a relegation survival battle, it is the Crystal Palace boss Sam Allardyce - who has, until this season at least, never been relegated from the Premier League.
MARCUS HAHNEMANN was our goalkeeper at Reading in the Premier League. He was not young, he had worked hard to get to the best league in the world. And when he was not happy, everyone knew about it.
After six years battling against relegation from the Premier League with six different managers, Sunderland were finally relegated from the top flight yesterday.
The two managers coming head to head in today's FA Cup semi-finals will both be looking to win the competition to ease the pressure; one to win a trophy in his first Premier League season, and the other one in what I expect to be his last.
The modern-day club captain no longer needs to be the old-fashioned, aggressive ranter and raver whose main method of leading by example was to go full force into battle and fly into every tackle.
It doesn't matter whether you are a seasoned old pro with a few months left on a Premier League deal or a young lad at a League Two club hoping to get your first contract, the pressure is really on at this time of the season.
It is embarrassing. It is petty. It tarnishes the FAI, it tarnishes Everton, and it tarnishes the supporters from Ireland who support Everton.
If any player is going to come back stronger from a serious leg break, Seamus Coleman is your man. There are not many more determined and strong-willed young lads in the game.
When I was in my second Premier League season with Reading, playing well and in the Ireland squad, Tottenham were one of the teams sniffing around.
When Wolves played Arsenal a few years ago, I was fortunate enough to have a private conversation with Arsene Wenger. At the time, it was very much appreciated and I have never forgotten it.
When Zlatan Ibrahimovic signed for Manchester United on a free transfer in the summer, I was not convinced he would live up to the hype and compete at the highest level every week in the Premier League. The whole 'call me Zlatan' thing never sat comfortably with me.
After news came through of Claudio Ranieri's sacking as Leicester City manager on Thursday night, it took me several hours to get my head around it.
When the Six Nations kicks into gear, I like it - because you know it is the time of year when results really matter in football and teams at the top and bottom are under intense pressure. This is when the league starts and when the cup competitions are knocked into shape.
Oh, to be young and foolish again. Oh, to be Harry Kane.
Recent results mean Manchester United's trip to Leicester City today is seen as a must-win game for both, but that might not be true. Bear with me, but it might actually be the best thing for both clubs for United to win - and for Leicester to be left sitting in that relegation zone for a bit.
As the January window comes to a close, much of the hype is about deadline day, but it's not actually like that for those at the centre of it. If you're a footballer, it's the day before that's the bigger event. That's why tomorrow will be more tense for a lot of players. That is when things will start stirring, when you'll really know whether a move might be on.
There was one moment in my career when I could feasibly have done a Diego Costa or a Dimitri Payet - if I was that type of player. It was the January window in 2008 and I had the chance to go to Sunderland under Roy Keane. I had even been visualising it, I was ready for it, but Reading wouldn't let me go.
On Tuesday night, Jose Mourinho did something I used to absolutely hate as a player, but that I can totally understand ahead of today's game at Old Trafford. It didn't actually surprise me that he criticised some of the Manchester United players for over-celebrating their first goal against Hull City. I would say that, no matter how they played, he had something like that planned.
In looking through my own appearance history in the FA Cup, to try and jog my memory for this column on how players feel about the competition, one thing stands out - and it annoys me. It annoys me how my clubs prioritised the league so much, at the expense of the FA Cup.
One of the most important pointers for what happens in football in 2017 might well have come in the last few days of 2016. I was very impressed with Cristiano Ronaldo's decision to turn down an astronomical deal to go to China. Even if there was an element of PR behind it, I think it sends a very loud message and sets a significant example in what is likely to be one of the biggest stories...
There's one thing that stands out for me from all my years of experience in England's famous Christmas schedule. It would be the effect on the body, and the stomach - but not because of the turkey dinner or anything like that. It was because I used to have my own pre-match routine that would be repeated a little too often in too short a time. If it was a 3.0pm game, I'd have two coffees in the morning, a thing called Phase 1, that was around the same as six or seven coffees, although I eventually replaced that with Red Bull, and then I might take some caffeine tablets too.
Every manager I played under had the same set-piece, and it was so simple, but I would use it to cause a lot of difficulties for Pep Guardiola and Claudio Bravo.
I used to absolutely hate my manager at Brentford, Martin Allen. No word of a lie, there were times when I wanted to leave the foot in when training. It was the accumulated anger and frustration of not playing, because he just didn't take to me. No matter what I did, or what I tried, he just threw it back in my face. I could never change his mind.
As I watched all the news come through from the tragic Chapecoense air crash in the last week, I was already getting quite upset about it - especially with the fact they were footballers - and then there was one bit of it that really knocked me out. It was the footage of the team celebrating in the dressing room after their semi-final.
If you were to properly lay it out - regardless of whatever else is happening in the world - there probably haven't been too many years in Irish football history as good as 2016, even from the really great times. The fact that we moved up 10 places in the Fifa world rankings announced last week is a nice little sign-off. It reflects how the team have built on the genuine success of Euro 2016,...
I was thrilled on Thursday when Jurgen Klopp defended Wayne Rooney about having a drink, because I think it was an important reminder that players are human - and I'll give you an example of just how human.
While formations are good and well in the modern game, ultimately men win football matches and that was proven last night in Vienna.
There is a single team selection that will tell us what Martin O'Neill really wants and thinks he can get from the Austria game, and you can probably guess who it revolves around. If O'Neill picks Wes Hoolahan, he fancies he can beat them man for man and win the match. If he doesn't pick Wes, you can tell he'll be trying to get a result in a more calculated way - and that he respects Austria.
I very much doubt that Pep Guardiola or Jose Mourinho jumped into a freezing river and swam to the other side to try and jolt their teams out of recent bad form, but that was exactly what I encountered with pretty much the first poor spell of my career.
As Jose Mourinho comes out of the tunnel at Stamford Bridge today, I can imagine he'll be respectful but business-like, maybe giving a little gesture to his old crowd but not much more than that . . . and underneath it all being utterly driven to get a result. His former players will be just as highly motivated, though, and the game will be telling in that it will immediately indicate which Chelsea...
With the way Martin O'Neill and James McClean publicly spoke after Moldova, I'm willing to bet the manager used the press as pre-match motivation. It just felt like it fed down from the top.
After all that, don't be surprised to see Wayne Rooney back in the Manchester United starting XI at Anfield tomorrow night. It would be classic Jose Mourinho to bring him back, to try and get a positive reaction out of what has been a bad few weeks for Rooney.
If there's one thing that Thursday night established, and that needs to be properly addressed starting with tonight against Moldova, it's that Ireland are still a better team without the ball.
This might sound a bit strange but, for in my time, a fixture with Georgia always put a bit of fear into your mind. That is because it is precisely the sort of game that doesn't suit us. The onus is on us. It is a game that we are expected to win but it is also one that you can't win in third gear, unlike against other supposedly lesser sides. You know you have to be effective in your performance, and ultra-professional.
I remember just before we travelled to Bulgaria with Ireland in 2009 under Giovanni Trapattoni, John O'Shea had joined up with the squad after playing in big Champions League match against Barcelona, and everyone was asking him about it.
If I was manager of Manchester United, I would do what Jose Mourinho is doing now and continue to pick Wayne Rooney - but only because I would be looking to sell him. And it wouldn't surprise me at all if that's the plan.
I've never seen anything in top-level football like what's happening with Martin O'Neill's contract situation. The fact that the World Cup campaign has already started and he hasn't signed a deal is bizarre, peculiar and downright sloppy from the FAI, and it leads to a lot of questions way beyond the reason why he actually hasn't put pen to paper.
There was a moment last week that I think will have meant much more to the Irish players than anyone realised, and showed me that Martin O'Neill is fully focused and means business; that he's ready to try and win this group.
I never really saw eye to eye with Robbie Keane, but then we probably didn't get off to the best of starts. He was at his peak when I first came onto the international scene in 2007, whereas I was a bit raw in terms of knowing the game. From the way I came up through the lower leagues, I didn't feel I had time to respect hierarchies.
As I took my seat in Lansdowne Road on Wednesday for Dundalk's Champions League match with Legia Warsaw, I felt like a bit of a glory-hunter. The issue of attendance and bandwagons has been one of many debates that has grown out of this, and it got me thinking about the wider question of what this could mean for the League of Ireland - and the national team.
It's been another week when Jose Mourinho's comments have attracted headlines and, as tiresome and trivial as that pantomime can sometimes seem, here's a little secret: When you're a player in an opposition team set to take on one of his sides - as is the case with Bournemouth today - you are looking out for what he's going to say. You want to know. It does add something.
This has been a strange few weeks for me. For the first time in my adult life I am not part of pre-season training. I am not being told what to do and then having to do it or run the risk of being fined - and worse, ridiculed by team-mates for being fined.
A few years ago, I found myself in exactly the situation a few of the French players are going to be in tonight, even if it wasn't on the same grand stage. Cristiano Ronaldo was running to get the ball in open play, and couldn't see me coming.
Ireland have had a Euro 2016 to be proud of but it's impossible not to imagine how exciting it would be to be in Iceland's situation today, in a quarter-final we of course could have played in. Iceland have almost had our 1988 and 1990 rolled into one, and now have such a chance at making even more history.
There's a little story you might not know from the night in Paris in 2009, that could yet be a relevant factor in today's game and influence whether we can really build on Wednesday's massive result with something even more historic.
As bad as the whole day felt yesterday and as crushing as the defeat was, I still think the scale of it comes down to a few individual failings rather than any collective issue - and there is still genuine hope for the Italian game on Wednesday.
By the time the Irish players get down to breakfast this morning, they’ll have already felt a different atmosphere around the camp, that extra tension you only feel on the eve of a big game.
So many of the Irish players will have waited so long for this tournament, going back much further than the last six months, and that's also part of the reason why the next eight days are going to feel like the longest of their careers.
The Chinese transfer window shuts in 12 days, and any player who decides between now and February 26 to move from a European league will have to deal with accusations that all he cares about is money. I would probably have made the accusation once myself but I'm not sure I'd make it any more.
Euro 2012 hangs over us a lot in the build-up to this summer's European Championships. When the draw was made, people compared it to the group we had to face four years ago, but even if it was as bad, I think the attitude of the management team will be totally different.
I knew all about the magic of the Cup and I was determined to make my mark. Derby County were the visitors. They were big-time, well, bigger than Brentford, and I knew this was an opportunity for me. Did I care about the FA Cup or did I care about advancing my career? Probably both. I always wanted medals in my career and I don't have enough of them, but this day was about...
When Ramiro Funes Mori gave Everton the lead in the last seconds of the game at Stamford Bridge last Saturday, most people would have expected his side to go on and win the game.
If you want to get something out of a manager, you have to go the right way about it. I went in one Monday morning to see a manager of mine and the first thing I said was that I was shit on Saturday. Naturally he agreed.
I remember the pain, and it was real pain. When you are returning from injury, you're alone a lot of the time and when you're on your own, you have time to think. As a friend of mine says, the mind is a dangerous neighbourhood: you don't want to go in there alone.
The country has been carried away by Ireland's achievement and I feel the same way. The players deserve this adulation. I know some of them better than I know others but this is my view of some of the key men in the campaign.
When I think back to the long weekends between play-off matches, the thing I remember most is the boredom.
Patrice Evra should have been happy. It was late on a November night in Paris and France had just qualified for the World Cup. I was sharing a car with him and John O'Shea as we made our way to the airport to fly back to England in Manchester United's private jet. But Evra wasn't happy, he was just relieved. France had been lucky, and they needed Thierry Henry's hand to help them, but myself and John were devastated. We knew how close we had come and now there was no second chance.
When Steve Coppell needed to make a point, I knew he would come looking for me. If things had been going badly or if the manager wasn't happy, I knew I would get it in the dressing room.
We had played Macedonia and won on the Saturday. We had a friendly against Italy three days later. My Achilles was sore and I felt the best thing to do was skip the game. I’d missed a few months with my club that year and now I could rest and get myself ready for pre-season. Giovanni Trapattoni had other ideas. He often had other ideas.
As a professional footballer, you rarely feel like a fan, but last Thursday night I was as caught up in the emotion as any supporter.
By the time I walked out on the pitch that evening, I was ready for my encounter with Roberto Carlos. Giovanni Trapattoni had spent the week preparing me for this meeting.
There are those who believe Jose Mourinho’s alienation of Eva Carneiro was the biggest mistake of his career and I think they might be right but not for the reasons some people say.
I saw a line from Steven Gerrard last week where he said he'd like to be 25 and doing it all again. I wouldn't mind having 10 more years in football, but one thing I know is that I wouldn't want to be 18 and trying to make it today.
One of the strange consequences of spending plenty of time in Ireland this summer was that I sat down to watch Liverpool play at Manchester United last night and I felt like a fan again.
On deadline day last week, I sat at home as a 34-year-old footballer without a club and I knew the phone wasn't going to ring. I'm a free agent, which means I can join any club after the window closes, so I wasn't part of the panic buys. There is one club in particular I'd like to join but they have the power and I have to wait, which isn't much fun.
There were times as a young player at Crystal Palace when I could see others dismissing me. I was raw and, compared to these streetwise kids from London, I was nobody, a savage from the back end of beyond.
My pre-season this year is taking place at Rosslare Golf Club and, occasionally, Rosslare Community Centre.
In my defence, I didn't know I was about to be heard by an entire stadium when I grabbed a microphone and decide to have a pop at a few people, or maybe the English people, depending on how you look at it.
Even now, even after all these years, I still find myself getting carried away by the endless possibilities of sport.
There are plenty of hurdles a player must overcome in his career but one they often don't see coming is an international call-up. Why would you see it as an obstacle? It's a great achievement, a reward for you and your family, as well as everyone who has believed in you.
Do you remember when you were a kid and you played football all day until night came? Do you remember that feeling as the sun began to set, an anxiety that the game was going to end, a dread that there would be no more football until tomorrow?
On Tuesday night, at half-time in the Champions League, I changed the channel and found myself hypnotised by a programme about a barge going down a canal. That was all it was, a boat going down a canal. It was filmed in real time and the entire programme was of a meander along a beautiful stretch of water. I lost myself in it and had to remind myself to switch back to the...
When I romanticise the story, I see myself like John McClane in Die Hard 2 during the scene where the air traffic controller tells him, "You're the wrong guy in the wrong place at the wrong time" and McClane replies: "Story of my life."
If you were to chart a plan for a young player to make a good impression with senior international players, you wouldn’t exactly go about it as Jack Grealish is going about it.
There are times when it can get pretty frustrating being on the field with Robbie Keane. I've sometimes played a pass to Robbie and the next thing his arms are thrown up in frustration, with the whole crowd believing that the ball didn't meet the required standard.
We always knew it was coming. No matter what the result under Giovanni Trapattoni, things would never change.
I went to Cheltenham last week. In the hysteria and giddiness, it's easy to get carried away.
Around the time Jose Mourinho was depicting me as public enemy number one, I was walking through Harrods when who should I see but Jose Mourinho.
There is a picture from earlier this season when Ipswich played Charlton at the Valley. In the last minute of injury time, my brother Noel scored the only goal of the game. Ipswich had claimed three points and in the picture I'm running towards Noel as he slides in celebration in front of the dugout. Noel is looking towards me and I am ecstatic or that is what the picture suggests. It tells a story...
Gary Neville wrote a typically perceptive and detailed column last weekend, focusing on Southampton and concluding that the days of the all-powerful gaffer are at an end. Now was the era of the director of football.
There was no chance I was going to sleep on Wednesday night. I came off the pitch pissed off, I left Portman Road pissed off, I went to bed pissed off and on Thursday morning, I woke up pissed off.
IT IS a winter's night in Dublin, I'm sitting in the upstairs room of a nightclub. A few hours earlier Ireland had qualified for their first major tournament in ten years but right now the only thing on my mind is that the floor is going to collapse.
I was pleased Joe Brolly agreed with me last week when he suggested that professional footballers are as likely to be role models as GAA players. "Gandhi may be a role model or Pope Francis," he said "but soccer players are only that."
There are things you do as a professional footballer that look extreme, but are only ways of protecting yourself.
They call it the graveyard shift and I've worked it my whole career. You're selected on the wing so fans think you're the go-to guy for the creative stuff, but the manager has given you a different job.
I've played in local derbies where there is great hatred but I don't think Ireland against Scotland qualifies as one of those. When I was at Wolves, there was supposedly a fan who would burn everything he'd been wearing after we played at the Hawthorns.
I first saw Brendan Rodgers on the training ground at Reading. When he got angry, he seemed to start talking to the players in Portuguese. He had been at Chelsea in Jose Mourinho's time and we all knew it. When he spoke in Portuguese, I used to think, 'Come on, do me a favour, you're from Northern Ireland'. At that point, I wasn't sure about him, but it turned out there was a lot more to him than that.
I knew of John O'Shea before I knew him. We played for Waterford on the same Kennedy Cup side when we were 14. While we have a lot in common these days, back then there was as much that divided us.
I suppose I felt I could do what I wanted. I had just scored the winner in injury-time for Reading against Sunderland, I was a man in demand and a man in demand will wear a tweed flat cap for his interview on Match of the Day and to hell with the consequences.
The abuse tends to blend into one block after a while so I can't remember what I said to David McGoldrick the first time we played each other and, strangely, he can't remember either.
Today I was supposed to be in Wexford General Hospital doing all the things fathers do when their wife is about to give birth. Of course, I didn't know what it was that fathers did when their wife went into labour before our first daughter, Luella, was born four years ago.
It's a cliche but Aiden McGeady would sometimes do things in training that brought a session to a halt. It might have been a piece of skill or a finish but we would all look on in awe when he did it. Well, nearly all of us would look on in awe.
Maybe they'd call it a late tackle. If the reporters were being kind, they might say it was 'mistimed'. All I remember is that I wanted Dimitar Berbatov to go away. "Jesus, Hunty, you smashed him," one of the lads said later. That wasn't what I intended. I just wanted him to leave me alone.