Thursday 14 December 2017

Latvia boss Marian Pahars can't recall encounters with Roy Keane

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane

Damian Spellman

Marian Pahars will lock horns with Roy Keane once again on Friday evening admitting he cannot remember his past battles with the Republic of Ireland's assistant manager.

Latvia boss Pahars will be in the away dug-out at the Aviva Stadium as his players provide the opposition for Ireland's first game since Martin O'Neill and Keane took charge.

The former Southampton player came up against Keane's Manchester United on several occasions during his seven years on the south coast and has four goals to his name against the Red Devils.

However, while well aware of Keane's qualities as a player, his memories of his own close encounters have been dimmed by the intervening years.

He said: "I played a couple of games against Manchester United, but whether I remember that well, no. To be fair, it was a long time ago and I don't remember very well.

"But of course, he was a top player, it was a top team and still is. But that was a long time ago, that was as players, now we have different roles.

"Of course I know all about the changes in Irish football, and maybe we have come at a bit of a difficult time - I mean for us.

"The players will be excited, they want to show themselves to the new management, the staff, they want to prove themselves and get their places.

"Maybe somebody wants to get back in, someone to secure, so it will be difficult.

"But it doesn't make a big difference, we still have to go and play football and not be afraid to do that."

The game in Dublin will be only the fifth of 37-year-old Pahars' spell in charge of the national team he represented as a player at the finals of Euro 2004 in Portugal.

Returning to the big stage remains a burning passion for one of European football's smaller nations, and while the manager knows it will be difficult, it is something about which he is allowing himself and his players to dream.

He said: "It's easier than flying to the moon, definitely, but it is also very difficult. Everybody wants to do that, all the big nations.

"You see some of the big nations, they cannot reach the European or World Cup finals.

"We felt that once, we have been there, we made it. So many things happened together to achieve that - good players, they all went to play at good clubs, they played there, the federation all together worked very well, we had luck, a good group, so many things.

"You can't even say what was the main reason for that. It's impossible, I think it's a combination, a good coach, right age of the players, everything happened.

"Now we have to try to do that again. Of course we are dreaming about that, there's no doubt about it. If we don't, then there's no point in doing this job, I think.

"Of course we set the targets to ourselves, but we have to be realistic, we have to see and we need time."

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