Tuesday 24 October 2017

Steven Reid: Paul McShane will not let Ireland down - he's as driven as Roy Keane

Paul McShane
Paul McShane
Steven Reid

Steven Reid

Remember the Lansdowne Roar? I preferred it to the Aviva Hush.

I preferred the old days when we walked out the tunnel at Lansdowne and looked across at an opposing team whose legs began to shake once they heard that noise and once they saw those frenzied Irish fans screaming, shouting and cursing at them.

Since being rebuilt and re-branded, the old place hasn't been the same. Nor have Ireland. In fact, since beating Holland in 2001, the following teams have been defeated in competitive internationals - Cyprus, Iran, Georgia, Albania, the Faroe Islands, San Marino, Wales, Slovakia, Macedonia, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Estonia, Andorra and mighty Gibraltar. So while it is all well and good for me to preach about a crowd generating an atmosphere, it's fair for them to ask for something to cheer about. We need a big win to make that happen.

Can it happen for us tonight, though? Once again, it's a case of the heart saying yes and the head saying no.

There are so many key players - Seamus Coleman, Ciaran Clark, Glenn Whelan, James McClean and Marc Wilson - missing. And this is Germany, a team capable of humiliating Brazil in their backyard, who are coming here. It won't be easy.

And I don't think Martin O'Neill will make things any easier if he persists with his policy of naming his team just 45 minutes before kick-off. For me, the coach needs to be doing this earlier in the week, letting the players know what his plans are, what their jobs entail.

Yet this is nothing new to O'Neill. I first heard about him doing this when he was at Aston Villa, when the entire squad would turn up for match-day, head into the dressing room and in Martin would walk, quiet as a mouse, before he would pin the team-sheet up on the notice board before walking out to let them think about it.

Is this the right way to go about things? It certainly wouldn't be my way but his record at Leicester, Celtic and Aston Villa has earned him the right to be respected and trusted. And, for me, it's also earned him the right to a new contract.

It's what Irish football needs right now: stability. After two years in the job, he has yet to receive a lucky break. Injuries - to Coleman, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Clark, Wilson, Wes Hoolahan - plus these suspensions to James McClean and Whelan, have disallowed him from achieving any sort of continuity in team selection.

Now, it also has to be said that he has disrupted the continuity with his own decisions. Remember it was David Forde not Shay Given who started in goal when this campaign began in Georgia; Robbie Keane who was the number one striker, Stephen Ward the first-choice left-back, Aiden McGeady, the preferred winger.

Yet change has been forced upon him because - aside from Jon Walters, more recently Jeff Hendrick, John O'Shea, Brady - which players can really say: 'I've played so brilliantly here that you can't leave me out?'

What he needs now is consistency, in terms of performance from his players, and then in terms of his selections. If we get the first, we'll get the second. The game really can be that simple.

Yet nothing will be simple or straightforward tonight. These are the nights when you need men to relish the pressure, to want to deliver.

And given the fact that a vacancy exists at centre-back, due to Wilson and Clark's injuries, I am in no doubt that O'Neill should opt for Paul McShane.

Now, I know I will be accused of favouritism here. He is Reading's club captain. I did recommend to Steve Clarke that we should sign him. Yet there was a reason for that. Macker is a big personality in any dressing room. He's honest. He always gives 100 per cent. You may, justifiably, ask - 'Don't all players'?

Well, unfortunately they don't. But this guy - he never shirks responsibility. Every game, he goes for every ball as if this is it, this is the moment his career could be defined. Nicest man in the world off the park, he is as competitive an animal as I have ever met, on it.

People talk about Roy Keane and the passion he exerted. Well, in terms of passion, desire and commitment, Macker is Keane's equal. He may not have won as much as Keane but he has that same intense level of determination burning inside him.

That is what Ireland need tonight. Big men to deliver big performances. We need that, and two other things: a crowd to shout for us, and luck to shine on us.

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