Wednesday 13 December 2017

Forde revved up for his big chance against Sweden: Kelly

David Forde in action during squad training
David Forde in action during squad training

Damian Spellman

DAVID Forde is ready to take his big chance as he prepares to make his competitive debut for the Republic of Ireland, according to goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly.

Kelly, a former Republic goalkeeper, has seen the 33-year-old Millwall stopper edge ahead of Sunderland's Keiren Westwood in the battle to become Shay Given's long-term replacement.


Forde seems likely to get the nod for Friday night's World Cup qualifier in Sweden, winning his sixth senior cap, but his first in a game in which points are at stake.


Asked if the former League of Ireland player was ready for the challenge, Kelly said: "Absolutely.


"You just have to see the way he holds himself now. He's standing tall - he's a big lad anyway, but he's doing well for Millwall, playing week in week out.


"He's got to the semi-final of the FA Cup, he's in form and what an opportunity now at 33.


"He's come through the ranks, played in the League of Ireland and now he's going to be playing in a World Cup qualifier, so it's a fantastic story and a fantastic tribute to his abilities.


"It shows what you can overcome, that if you keep working hard, this is where it can get you. He's done it."


Westwood was manager Giovanni Trapattoni's initial choice to replace Given when he announced his retirement from international football in the wake of a disappointing Euro 2012 finals campaign.


However, his lack of regular football for Sunderland, where Belgium international Simon Mignolet's form has been excellent, became a concern and the Italian turned to Forde for the November friendly against Greece and last month's 2-0 win over Poland.


Asked if Forde could make the place his own, Kelly said: "Well, he's there on merit.


"The one thing I would say about David is that the amount of work he puts in on the training ground is incredible.


"But he's taken a real step and shown that if you put that work into your game on the training pitch, then you get the rewards. That's what we are seeing now."


Forde may also have to contend with a different challenge on Friday evening with the Swedish FA reportedly set to play with the roof at the Friends Arena in Stockholm closed amid forecasts of sub-zero temperatures.


Trapattoni is keen for that not to be the case, but Kelly insists it will make little difference either way.


He said: "I suppose if you are in a stadium where there's wind inside, that could affect it.


"Does it change the atmosphere, does it make the air a bit warmer so the ball travels a bit faster?


"Because it's so cold over there, I don't think it's going to make a great deal of difference. But I'll tell you after the game."


Roof or no roof, Forde and his team-mates will have to produce a performance of real character to emerge with a positive result, which would keep alive their hopes of at least claiming the play-off spot in Group C.


Much of the talk this week has surrounded the potential impact on the game of Paris St Germain striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic and what they can do to restrict the threat he poses.


Kelly said with a smile: "Well, in the old days, you would put him in Row Z of the stand in the first minute - but you are not allowed do that anymore.


"He's a world-class player, but it's not all about one man. A lot of teams are very wary - and quite rightly so - of players like Ibrahimovic, but any team that comes back from four down against Germany has obviously got a threat going forward."

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