Sport Soccer

Friday 23 March 2018

Forde can't wait for Swedish big stage

Damian Spellman

DAVID FORDE will tomorrow night reap the rewards of refusing to give up on his hopes of playing international football.

The Millwall goalkeeper will make his competitive debut for the Republic of Ireland in their World Cup qualifier Sweden at the age of 33 after standing patiently in line behind Shay Given and then Keiren Westwood waiting for his chance.

Given's retirement from the international scene and Westwood's lack of club football at Sunderland have seen Forde rise in Giovanni Trapattoni's pecking order, and he will win his sixth senior cap in Stockholm having established himself as number one in the last two friendlies against Greece and Poland.

Asked if he ever feared is time might not come, he said: "I have never stopped believing, I've always been quite positive.

"I have a lot of belief in my own ability. I just kept doing the right things and I knew that hopefully that would be enough, and I've been lucky enough and managed to get my head in the door.

"You prepare for these times and that what keeps you going - the thoughts of playing for your country and playing in big games like this, that's what gets you through the hard times.

"Even then, they are not even hard times because you are involved with your country, and that's something that you want to do since you're a young kid.

"I came into the game relatively late as well, so I relish it. It's a very special thing for me."

Forde, of course, is not the only Irish goalkeeper to have found his way into the team blocked by Given.

The 36-year-old Aston Villa player decided to call time on his Ireland career on his return from Poland having amassed a national record 125 caps during a 16-year-period, and the standards he set have made following in his footsteps a difficult task.

Forde said: "You look at Shay and, in my eyes, he's probably if not the, one of the best servants the country has had, so they are big boots to fill.

"He's been an immense player for Ireland down through the years. I'm just hoping I can step in and do a similar job."

The game at the Friends Arena could be pivotal to Ireland's qualification hopes with the two countries, as well as Tuesday night's opponents Austria, vying for second place in Group C behind favourites Germany.

It is set to be played in sub-zero temperatures and that will present specific problems for both goalkeeper in particular.

Forde said: "It is difficult playing in extreme conditions. It's one of those that we have to adjust to.

"Whatever way it's going to be, we are just going to have to control whatever the conditions are on the night, and we are all professional enough to deal with it.

"It probably is a vital, vital game. We want to stay in contention. We are in a good position - we are a point behind Sweden so, at minimum, we are looking at getting a result.

"But if we can come away with three points, it would be massive for us and give us a lot of confidence going into Tuesday night with Austria at home."

Press Association

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