Sunday 24 March 2019

Andrews urges O'Neill to restore 'positivity'

Keith Andrews at the launch of the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme at Scoil Mhuire CBS, Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Keith Andrews at the launch of the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme at Scoil Mhuire CBS, Dublin. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

Keith Andrews believes that Ireland's players will be disappointed by the confusion surrounding the future of Martin O'Neill.

But the former international is happy that O'Neill is staying on for the process of rebuilding towards Euro 2020 - and he feels the prospect of being part of a tournament in Dublin might have influenced the Derryman's decision to stay.

However, he has also called on the 65-year-old to take a greater interest in the area of youth development.

Andrews was strongly critical of O'Neill after the November drubbing to Denmark, describing the Irish approach at the business end as "absolutely clueless".

And in the build-up to those games, he had annoyed the manager by suggesting that luck had been a major part of Ireland's progression.


However, the ex-Irish midfielder has endorsed a third campaign for O'Neill, while admitting he faces a challenge to lift the mood of "doom and gloom" hanging over the camp at the moment.

He feels a transparent explanation of why a messy week unfolded would be a good start so it doesn't carry over into the rest of the year.

"I think privately the players would be disappointed that the contract issue wasn't sorted," says Andrews.

"I'm thinking if I'm player, and we're getting over the disappointment of Denmark, I'd like my manager to be fully committed, and fully focused on us.

"Where are we going? Is Martin staying? It looks like he is. We need positivity and we need to know where we are going.

"If he admits, yes, it was tempting - the adrenalin of day-to-day with Stoke or Everton - I wouldn't have a problem with that, I really wouldn't. It's not as if it's happened during a key qualifying time.

"But it's not one that can just be brushed over. I think it would be nice if there was a little bit of transparency."

Andrews accepts that this regime has effectively reached a crossroads. He is surprised that there have been no announcements on the future of senior players that are expected to retire.

He strongly favours the promotion of Declan Rice - while conscious of the pressure on the West Ham player - and would also like other promising youngsters to be fast-tracked into squads for forthcoming friendlies. Andrews helped out with the U-16, U-17 and U-18 squads last term and feels that the managerial team need a handle on what's coming through.

That doesn't always sit in tandem with the goals at senior level, and the 37-year-old does acknowledge that the 2020 campaign could be the most important qualification tilt ever because the prize is playing major tournament games in Dublin.

"If there's a player and we think he's going to be (good) in two years' time then like Wales, with (Ethan) Ampadu and (Ben) Woodburn, they get them involved, show them a little bit of love and get them used to the scene and then they drop back to U-21 or U-19- that's the type of path we could be going down.

"Yes, by the time an U-16 gets through to the first team, there's every chance Martin won't be here.

"But he should know about him. I'm not sure (if he does) because his focus is very much on the first team.

"To be fair to Martin, before we went to the European Championships last year he came in and spoke to our U-17 side and he was very good and you could see them standing up tall.

"But it's like at club level - you're not going to focus on the academy on your first day in the building because he won't see the benefit.

"We have to do everything possible to qualify for Euro 2020 but I don't think we have a choice in terms of the transitional period," continued Andrews.


"I think the fact we can play in our own back yard, our own stadium - what a moment that would be for the players and management team. And I do think that has played a little part in the back of maybe Martin's mind as well.

"I think that once the dust settles on this, I would have faith in Martin and the management team getting us to 2020.

"Who are your alternatives? He (O'Neill) knows the staff inside out, the structures, the players, their strengths, more importantly their weaknesses.

"Yes, we do criticise the style sometimes. But I think he's done very, very well, he's got us to a Euros and very nearly got us to a World Cup. We've no divine right to be qualifying for World Cups. (24 team) Euros are very achievable for us now.

"He's basically more or less done nigh on what he should be (doing). I genuinely hope he stays. I know I was critical of that performance but in terms of his reign, I'll stand by it - I think it's been a success."

Irish Independent

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