John Giles: We need to take six points to have any chance
Read John Giles' column every Wednesday and Friday only in The Herald
Published 04/09/2015 | 19:42
The transfer window provided little in the way of solace for Martin O'Neill and Ireland. Put simply, nobody showed much interest in our best players.
On the eve of a Euro 2016 double-header, some worried about possible disruption to O'Neill's squad in advance of tonight's tussle with Gibraltar and Monday's game against Georgia but they need not have fretted.
In fact, I would have been happier if there had been some disruption. Let's be honest, Gibraltar are no threat and I think there were a number of players who could have done with a change of scenery.
Games like this have no value but the points and I'm not even sure they even help minnows.
Jonathan Walters was the only player who had anything to think about in the dying days of the window and in the end, that came to nothing.
There was some talk of Aiden McGeady moving out of Goodison Park but again, nothing happened and he stays where he is.
This is reality now for Ireland. Walters stirred some action in the market because he been excellent for several seasons and I don't think you'd find many Ireland fans who would dispute the suggestion that he has been our best player for quite some time.
But apart from that, who have the stand-out players been in the last year? Robbie Keane in America, Walters in the Premier League and that is about it.
Seamus Coleman stood still last season as far as international football was concerned but he fared better at Everton and has started the new term well for his club. I've said before, he's playing with better players around him there. In fact, he's playing with a better team.
It is perhaps too simplistic to just say that Ireland players are not good enough and therefore no clubs would want to pay money for them. There is much more going on than that but the impact is the same.
Our best players don't get enough football and if you look at the imbalance in trade between the English Leagues and the rest of the football world, it is very obvious that even Championship sides are now searching far beyond the local talent pool for players to fill their squads.
Take Brighton, a quintessentially English club currently top of the Championship and managed by an Irishman Chris Hughton.
Half of the squad is from outside these islands and the same pattern is repeated as you drill down through the top five or six clubs and further.
The foreign influence is seeping from above into the lower divisions and this, more than anything else, should be a huge worry for Irish footballers.
There is so much money available to all the clubs in the Premier League that they can look wherever they like for talent and spare no expense in the search.
Much of that is just following fashion and I fear that the Championships sides are now copying what they see above them.
It has been the case for some time that the bulk of Ireland's Premier League players are concentrated in promoted clubs but even that option is closing fast.
It's a personal hate of mine when football clubs fall into line and follow like sheep. There are plenty of good players around Ireland, England, Scotland and Wales but they have been forgotten in the rush to spend Sky's money.
Perhaps they should change their names and learn Spanish, Italian, German or French. They might have a better chance of playing some football.
Robbie Keane decided to leave England behind and he is having a ball out in America. He remains our best stiker while Shane Long continues to frustrate everyone.
There is one certainty about Keane now which nobody disputes. He cannot play up front on his own and I would like to see Jon Walters up alongside him for these two games.
I want to see Wes Hoolahan in from the start too. He has started well for Norwich and remains the only creative player in the Ireland squad who can change a game with the ball at his feet.
I would also like to see more from players like Marc Wilson and James McCarthy.
This is a good chance for them to change the narrative of their time with Ireland.
There is a simple requirement here. Take the points and then worry about Germany and Poland. If Ireland are very lucky, events elsewhere will work in their favour.