Bullish John Hartson says Wales should beat Ireland 'all day long'
Former Wales striker John Hartson says that Ireland have no reason to feel optimistic about the World Cup 2018 draw because they are a considerably inferior side to Chris Coleman's Euro 2016 bound stars.
Hartson, who was briefly assistant to Coleman, feels the new top seeds are way ahead of Martin O'Neill's charges and says that Ireland would be unable to close the gap if they had Jose Mourinho in the dugout.
"We'd beat Ireland all day long," said Hartson, stressing that the age profile of his nation's team means they will improve into the next campaign.
"We've got a great group and then you throw Gareth Bale in there, the most expensive player in the world and an absolutely phenomenal talent.
"It's not a criticism of Ireland. Ten years ago, I'd have said that Ireland would thump us, but right now we're in the ascendancy.
"I've played with a lot of the Ireland players and played under Martin for five years and just think at this moment they're going through a difficult period.
"I don't care if it was Jose Mourinho in charge. I don't think it's really got anything to do with the manager. You're not blessed with great talented individuals.
"When you had Roy Keane and the players walked out alongside him, they grew 10ft because they knew they had a leader and that lifts other players. It's similar to what Gareth Bale is doing now."
"Ireland do have a tough Euros group, let's not beat around the bush. But Robbie Keane is your star man and he's 35 and playing in America. You've got nothing coming through behind.
"You've got Shane Long, he's in and out and doesn't hold down a position at Southampton. Jon Walters. What's his best position? He's a 100pc player, he'll give you everything, but is he going to go past players? Aiden McGeady? I've played with Aiden. Wonderful ability, a genius at times that can frustrate you."
And Hartson dismissed the idea that Jack Grealish could dramatically change Ireland's fortunes if he came on board. "I don't think he can radically improve it," he responded, "I don't think he goes down as a world-class player right now. He's not a young Gascoigne, is he? He's developing."
To back up his view that Wales are more than a one-man team, Hartson reckons Ireland could benefit from a player with the abilities of Aaron Ramsey. "He plays every week for Arsenal," he said. "He's a top player."
Ireland's main midfielder James McCarthy was being eyed up by Arsenal earlier this year and Spurs were tracking him this summer but the Glaswegian yesterday signed a new five-year contract at Everton.
"I've loved every minute here," said McCarthy, who will earn in the region of £50k per week. His Irish colleagues McGeady and Darron Gibson are out of the Premier League kick-off as they are still carrying injuries.