Wednesday 13 December 2017

Andrews tips Hoolahan for key role against Austria

Former Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews. Photo: Sportsfile
Former Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews. Photo: Sportsfile

John Fallon

He came agonisingly close to featuring at the World Cup himself but Keith Andrews feels the current batch have every right to believe they can reach Russia next year.

Joint-top of the group with Serbia at the midway point of the campaign, unlike in his spell, Ireland don't have World Cup holders Italy to overcome during the second half of the series.

That odyssey ended in Paris on a famous 2009 night when Thierry Henry's infamous handball shaded the play-off in France's favour.

Having retained the four-point gap on Wales with a scoreless draw in March, Martin O'Neill's men can torpedo the prospects of an Austrian side trailing by the same margin when the nations meet on Sunday week at Lansdowne Road.

Achieving that outcome, Andrew feels, may hinge on getting Wes Hoolahan into the team while another creative force, Robbie Brady, is not guaranteed a starting slot given his recent club form.

"I think we'll win the game," asserted Andrews, a SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme ambassador.

"We are in a good position at this stage of the group without having played particularly well or hitting the heights we're capable of.

"There is still a lot of football to be played and next week is crucial. However, if we can beat Austria, I do fancy us (to qualify).

"Martin tends to come up with something for these games and I just hope Wes is in the team. I know you need to have the energy and pace around him but he has to be in the team.

"Players go through dips in form. Look at Robbie Brady 12 months ago, it was just a case of what position he would play in. He had taken over in that No 10 spot and was our star player to a degree.

"Now, Robbie is in a situation whereby he's in and out of the Burnley team. There's probably a case to be made that players are playing better than Robbie at the moment. Not that I think he will do that but these are the dynamics Martin is dealing with from one qualifier to another."

Andrews, these days developing his coaching credentials by assisting Ireland U-17 manager Colin O'Bell, also feels his former team-mate Glenn Whelan has a role to play.

"Glenn seems a lot freer when he plays for Stoke which I find sad," noted Andrews. "He's been that good a servant for Ireland and deserves a little bit more respect than he's been getting."

Irish Independent

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