'We couldn't stand each other by the time Euro 2012 started' - Keith Andrews
Former Republic of Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews has revealed that the Irish players “couldn’t stand the sight of each other” by the time they played their first match at the ill-fated Euro 2012 tournament in Poland.
Andrews was a key player in Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland side four years ago, as defeats against Croatia, Spain and Italy completed a miserable and brief stay in the tournament for the Boys in Green.
Yet Andrews insight into the fractious mood inside the Ireland camp four years ago confirms their misery on the field was compounded by negativity off it, as he claimed the players did not bond as they would have wanted in the build-up to the Euro 2012 finals.
“There was a little bit of cabin fever for us by the time we got to Poland,” Andrews told Sky Sports. “We just spent too much time together. We were a group that got on well, a close knit bunch, but the time the tournament started, we couldn’t stand the sights of each other.
“It is a fine line between how much training you do, getting a bit of time off. You need a bit of a release to see family or friends, or go for a game of golf. Whatever it is just to break it up a little bit.
“It was not an excuse for how we performed over there. We had a tough group…Spain and Italy contested the final and they were in our group, so the odds were against us. In terms of the performances, we were not at the race, but you need happy players if you are going to get good performances.
“There is a large portion of that squad left from 2012 and they will be telling the management staff of Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane about the difficulties we faced four years ago. You have to learn from previous tournaments and I’m sure Martin and Roy will do that.”
Andrews suggested Ireland face a fight to make any kind of impression at Euro 2016 this summer, as he picked out the player who could turn the tide in the favour of O’Neill’s side.
“This is a traditional Ireland fight, with the fighting spirit and the togetherness. They do lack a bit of a marquee world class player, the likes of a Roy Keane, a Robbie Keane, Damien Duff,” he added.
“They need to rely a little on solidarity and set pieces are going to be huge for us, as we have a big side.
“Shane Long is going to be huge for us, a key player, if Martin shows him that little bit of love that he need. Ask any Premier League centre-half who he least likes to play against and he would be right up there, he doesn’t give defenders a moments peace.
“We will have a soak up a lot of pressure in France and he is the ideal player to get us up the pitch, chase the channels and harass defenders.
“The one accusation is he doesn’t do it all the time from the start. A lot of his best games for Ireland have been coming off the bench and I think that still plays on Martin’s mind, but he would be in my starting line-up.”