Tuesday 24 October 2017

We won't freeze on big stage, insists Andrews

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

KEITH ANDREWS believes that the settled nature of the Irish side will ensure they won't freeze on the big stage in Poland next month.

The Dubliner is preparing to make his major tournament debut, like the vast majority of Giovanni Trapattoni's squad. But the experienced midfielder is confident that the Irish team will avoid stage-fright.

"I don't think we are going to freeze on the big occasion," said Andrews last night, after his first day's training with the group following a mini-break at the end of his Premier League season.

"We have been together a hell of a long time so I don't think that's an issue.

"I think there is enough belief in the group to know what we are about, we know our strengths and weaknesses. We've got a manager who gives us a lot of confidence when we go out there. He has instilled a lot of belief in the team over the last few years that we can go and produce performances against big nations.

"If we can perform in the way we know we can perform and frustrate the life out of teams and nick results and be really, really solid, then I do think we can qualify out of the group."

The Dubliner admits that it has been hard not to focus on the strengths of Ireland's opponents while either encountering them on the pitch or watching on television.

"You can't fail to do that," he admits. "When you're looking at Barcelona, you are looking at their midfield. And when at Spurs, you're watching Modric. I know him from playing against him. You know his strength, and he does not have too many weaknesses."

Andrews detected a positive mood around the Irish camp when they congregated over the weekend, a little smile here and there that hinted at the enormity of what lies ahead.

He is focusing on the good vibes rather than concentrating on his own club situation. His short-term contract at West Brom is up, so the timing of Roy Hodgson's departure was unfortunate. Andrews will wait until a replacement is appointed before choosing his next move; there is an offer on the table.

"If a manager gets the nod, he's going to have to want me as well. That will have a major bearing," says the 31-year-old. "I'm happy there."

A couple of stellar displays in Poznan and Gdansk could open other avenues for the man who was a pivotal figure in the tail end of Ireland's successful qualification attempt.

Irish Independent

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