Sunday 11 December 2016

Steven Reid: History-makers must savour these special moments

Published 23/06/2016 | 02:30

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire.
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire.

Last night's win was a massive, massive achievement and one that brought memories of 2002 and 1994 flooding back. These are truly special times for this team and they have to savour every moment of it.

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Every step along the way, you're making history and the lads must realise that.

The despair of four years ago suddenly feels like a lifetime ago and now we look forward to France on Sunday. These lads are going to come home as heroes but they'll already be refocusing the minds onto the next task.

You can only enjoy it for a short period of time because there's another big game around the corner but that's where we want to be. The only time the players will really get to enjoy this is when they finish playing. You can look back at pride with it.

In 2002 we were well aware of just how much the country was behind us but I think this is on another scale with social media and everything else.

When I look back on it, it's still the highlight of my career. The pleasure you get from representing your country and winning those big games is indescribable.

The messages came flooding in for us and it will be the same for the next couple of days for the lads. They'll be getting messages from every celebrity on Twitter and there's no danger that they won't know what this means to people just like it did for us.

But they're professionals and they'll quickly move on to the next game which is going to be another tough ask against the hosts but we'll go into that game without any fear and rightly so.

The fans were sensational from start to finish and I can only imagine how loud it must have been inside the stadium with the roof on.

The thing about it was, the win was fully deserved. We haven't nicked a lucky one nil win, we earned those three points.

Martin deserves a lot of credit for his team selection. Not a lot of people saw it coming and to change your centre-back partnership and to just throw Richard and Shane in turned out to be a master stroke.

It was so brave of Martin to go with two up top and also to keep James McCarthy in the team, but he fully vindicated his selection.

It was no surprise to see James flourish as a holding midfielder. That role suits him perfectly and really; it's where we need him playing.

He's got the legs, the energy to cover the ground and to be a destroyer in breaking up attacks. I think when he plays further forward, he struggles with the pressure of having to get on the ball and produce something.

Jeff was brilliant again. What I really liked about him was the tackle that he put in early doors. He really set the tone and said that Ireland weren't going to be bullied. He set a marker down. Roy spoke this week about being courageous and having big balls and Jeff typified that.

No one deserved to score the winner more than Robbie Brady. He's been brilliant not just in this campaign but also throughout qualifying.

The game was crying out for a bit of magic and it was no surprise to see that Wes was the one who provided it. For all that we dominated Italy, we just couldn't find that one moment of quality until Wes came on.

Composure

He showed remarkable composure to put that miss immediately out of his head and put in the kind of cross that is almost impossible to defend against.

And that's what makes that ball even better. What must have been going through Wes' mind after the miss?

To compose himself and produce that quality after he's probably thought 'that's it' was just outstanding but that's what Wes can give you and that's why Martin sent him on when he did.

With about 15 minutes left, in my own mind I was thinking that we were lacking that bit of stardust and luckily for us Wes produced it.

When I look back at our most impressive performances in the last few months, the ones where we take the game to the opposition are the ones that stand out and there is a lesson to be learned from that.

Last night's result, the performance against Sweden, the performance against Bosnia at home. We're well able to be the team who goes at it on the front foot and we're going to have to do that again on Sunday.

We don't need to park the bus. We're an aggressive side and other teams struggle to live with that intensity and that was the case again last night.

More of the same on Sunday and we're in with a very good chance of a quarter-final place.

Irish Independent

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