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Irish can't let Wembley pass them by

Richard Dunne


A LOT TO PROVE: Shane Duffy will be hoping for a
good game this evening

A LOT TO PROVE: Shane Duffy will be hoping for a good game this evening

A LOT TO PROVE: Shane Duffy will be hoping for a good game this evening

I never got the chance to play for Ireland at Wembley, but if I had the opportunity, there would have been two thoughts in my mind.

There's the honour of playing for your country in a glamour tie, but also the thought that you don't want to be on the end of a heavy beating.

There is the potential for Ireland to lose in London tonight, and lose heavily. England are one of the toughest tests you could face at the moment.

But if Ireland can get something against them, it would bode well for the games ahead and for the World Cup qualifiers. It all depends on how Ireland approach the game.

If they are too nice and play the passing game that Stephen Kenny wants us to play, it might not end well. But if they play as the game demands, and that could mean not making the nice pass but putting the ball down the channel, why not do that?

If you are in the World Cup final you don't just play your usual style because it's attractive, you need to play to win, play to your strengths. It's not easy for Ireland this week as they are missing a lot of players, especially up front, but I'd like to see a performance where Ireland play to their strengths, with the correct plan.

Looking at the last five Ireland games, I don't see what everyone else sees in terms of the team's progress. Ireland have been alright, but they haven't been amazing. They should have won three of the games, maybe four, but they didn't win any. What I have seen so far is a team that's nice to watch, that passes the ball well, but lacks a real threat.

Ireland need to cause England problems and if England are to win the game, then make them work for the victory. When we get the opportunity, Ireland need to pass forward, make penetrating runs, but also put the foot in.

I don't want to expect Ireland to lose, but trying to out-pass England is not the way we are going to succeed. So the key is in whether the manager sticks to his guns and does try to out-pass them, or if he plays a game based on getting a result.

Ireland are in a transition period, from being a compact team which is hard to beat but not particularly attractive to watch, into a team which is expansive, which plays the ball. When you do that you leave spaces in between that the opposition can pass through.

Look at the goals Ireland have conceded. One or two passes and the opposition have got straight through us. So tonight I'd like to see Ireland transition quicker, block spaces off and if England want to play through us, to make them play around us and down the sides, rather than what we have seen so far.

We need to be more compact so that we avoid those gaps in midfield where the two centre halves are split and where the opposition find pockets of space.

Every time Ireland play England we are the underdogs. Historically, England always have a better squad and team - on paper. But that superiority has never been reflected in the results as we've always been competitive against them - they haven't beaten us in 35 years.

No matter what problems we have with injuries or anything else, Ireland have always been able to put together a strong performance to get a result.

Tonight is the same. Look at the two starting teams and England are the one you'd pick to win it, so Ireland have to find a way to counter that.

I know Stephen Kenny is trying to change the system, to bring in a new way of playing. But England at Wembley is about showing fight, having a battle, going out there to do it for Ireland and show the competitive side of the team.

England are at home and they are the clear favourites, so the Irish side need to make this a game that suits us, not to play into their hands by playing football. Against a lesser team you can pass your way to a win, but against the likes of England you need spirit to go with the talent.

That can come from a few sources. The manager and the staff will have their plan and their instructions. The message from the staff can't just be to go out and play a passing game, it has to be more than that.

But the players, who have been sitting in their hotel rooms in Barnet all week thinking about the game, need to find that belief as well, keep each other on their toes to make sure there is no slacking off. Let the England staff look after England, what Ireland do as a team is down to the 11 that Stephen Kenny picks.

It's not alien territory for the Irish players, they play against these England internationals in the Premier League every week so it's a professional rivalry as much as the history of Ireland v England.

If I was in that Ireland squad - and I was in the squad when we played at Wembley in 2013 but I didn't get on the pitch as I was just back from a season out with injury - I'd be determined to show that I was a Premier League player too, that I was there on merit.

I think we have built up this England team and these England players too much, they are over-hyped. Take them out of their clubs and put them into another team and maybe they're not as good as they think they are.

We're led to believe that Joe Gomez is one of the best defenders in the world, that Dominic Calvert-Lewin is one of the best strikers in the world. They are good players but they are not to be feared and no matter what club anyone plays for, if you show enough spirit on any given day, you have a chance of coming out on top.

If you worry about the names on your opponents' teamsheet you have a problem, but if Ireland play the game and not the occasion, they have a chance.

Tonight is also a big occasion for Shane Duffy, who has had a tough few weeks.

I know that feeling as a centre half. Things have taken a bad turn and it feels like it will never come around for you. But for Shane, it might be a case of him scoring a key goal tonight to win the game or get a draw, or putting in the block on the line that prevents a certain goal.

You can feel the confidence return from a game like that, after a bad spell like the one Shane has had.