Saturday 25 November 2017

Steven Reid: Positive result can set the tone - just like it did in 2002

The only worry for me would be Jonathan Walters’ fitness. When we went off, we lost a bit of the momentum. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
The only worry for me would be Jonathan Walters’ fitness. When we went off, we lost a bit of the momentum. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images
Steven Reid

Steven Reid

Back in 2002 prior to our first World Cup game against Cameroon, the message from the gaffer was simple: you can stay in the tournament by getting a draw but it's very easy to go out of it with a defeat.

I'm sure that Martin O'Neill will have been saying the same kind of thing to his players yesterday and even though we did let a one-goal lead slip, I thought it was not only a hugely positive result but the performance was one that gives me a lot of confidence that we can go on now and get out of the group.

Before the game and looking at the group, I think we would have taken a point but given the performance in the first hour, some may feel that it is two dropped.

It was a great performance to get the campaign going and it brought back memories of our result against Cameroon.


It's always important not to lose the first game. If you do, it can change your mental approach to the next two games but we never did that and I don't expect this side to do it either.

We got exactly the same 1-1 draw against Cameroon and that gave us huge confidence.

We had so many senior characters like Niall Quinn, Steve Staunton but everything came from Mick McCarthy. He was our leader and the message came from him.

When I look at this Ireland team, guys like Robbie Keane, John O'Shea and Shay Given all have similar experience to the guys in our dressing room and I'm sure that they will be driving the same message to the boys.

We went into that second game against Germany with huge confidence and it worked in our favour in that we got another positive result.

I suppose the main difference now is that there isn't a team like Saudi Arabia in the group. They were the whipping boys as such and even though the games will only get tougher from here, there is no reason why we can't go on and get out of the group like we did.

What we saw yesterday was an Ireland team playing without any fear or trepidation and, all the while, doing it on the big stage.

They looked like a team who felt perfectly at home in playing in a major tournament and that can only bode well for the remaining two group games.

Read more: Unhappy ending to night of Irish promise

No one deserved that moment more than Wes. He's been a player that's been on the fringes but over the last year or so, he's become an important player to the side.

It was typical Seamus Coleman play to create it but after that it was all about the class of Wes. Anyone who has played with or against him will know that he's always capable of that moment of magic.

I came up against Wes a few times with West Brom and he was always one that was singled out as being a danger man.

In the pre-match build-up to games, the gaffer would always mention him and make sure that we gave him special attention.

Quite often that 'we' was in fact me because when we played Norwich, as the right-back, I was the one who usually had the task of trying to keep him quiet.

He's got that ability to create and score goals. I was a little bit surprised that Martin O'Neill started with the diamond formation but it's one that suits Wes Hoolahan to a tee and he flourished at the tip of that in the number 10 position.

That's the position he got his goal from and really, that's exactly where you want your number 10 to be. He created the space for himself and the way he finished it with his weaker right foot, if you can even call it that, was just unbelievable.

When you look at the Norwich team over the last couple of years, he's been their key player and the same applies to Ireland now. He brings that x-factor that can produce a moment like that in a big game and that's what separates him from other players.

Wes looked completely at home on that stage yesterday but I wasn't surprised that he did at all.

The only worry for me would be Jonathan Walters' fitness. When we went off, we lost a bit of the momentum. We went to a 4-5-1 with James McClean coming on and it would be concern for me if Walters (pictured below) isn't fit for Belgium on Saturday.

Read more: Wes's lack of caps 'a shame to football', insists Brady


Fingers crossed, it's nothing serious but immediately when you hear 'Achilles', you think it's going to take a bit longer than a couple of days to recover.

Before the game, I did fear that we might sit back, a bit like Northern Ireland did against Poland, and hope for the best on the counter-attack but we actually took the game to Sweden.

We haven't seen that often enough from this Irish team but they did it against Bosnia at home as well so maybe there is something to be learned from that.

Maybe it's not all about sitting back and hoping to get Shane Long in on the counter-attack. Maybe, at times, it's about seizing the initiative and looking to take the game to the opposition because you'd be surprised about what might happen.

We are still right in the tournament and the message now will be to build on what was a very positive result.

Irish Independent

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