In truth, their current World Cup qualifying campaign has been nothing short of a disaster, with their push to claim second place in their group coming undone only very recently with two consecutive losses against Sweden and Austria. But now, with a fresh new start seemingly on the horizon, the Boys in Green still have plenty of time to turn things around in time for France 2016 – provided they gain qualification.
But who’s going to lead them there in the absence of Giovanni Trapattoni? And which players will help guide them there?
Although, interim boss Noel King, as reported by RTE Sport on Tuesday, won’t be considered for the job going forward it’s important to remember that whenever the new boss is appointed it will be with a clean slate. Players who have been in the wilderness for the past few years are sure to be considered for inclusion in the squad, and that can only be viewed as a good thing.
Granted, it’s difficult to tie down any certainties until Il Trap’s successor is appointed, but there are a handful of players who are all set to become a big part of the upcoming campaign. And having recently found a way back into the fray to help the Green Army, both Stephen Ireland and Andy Reid are two players that could really help instigate an Irish revival.
So, it’s time for Back Page Football to take a look at what they can bring to the table.
Put your left foot forward
Nottingham Forest midfielder Andy Reid has been an integral member of Irish football ever since he helped them to claim the U-16 European Championship, and clearly has a very strong link with the national team from an early age that has helped endear him to the fans. Despite becoming somewhat of a journeyman, moving from club to club over the course of his career, it’s clear that the 31-year-old still has plenty of passion for the game.
His recent performances for Billy Davies’ side underlines exactly how much of an asset Reid could be to the international team.
While his incredibly lethal left foot and raw talent has never been much of a secret, his five goals and four assists to date has made him one of the most exciting players to watch in this season’s Championship.
Nevertheless, debates about his fitness levels are always going to plague the left-midfielder wherever he plays, so no matter what he does he’ll have to prove that he’s fighting fit for the challenge of making his return to the squad a permanent one.
Hopefully, he can transfer his club form over to international level.
Ideally, Reid could add an element of danger to Ireland’s attack from dead-ball situations in and around the opposition’s 18-yard box which is certainly something that could benefit them immensely, especially considering that it is one of their best opportunities to score. In short, his consistent, good delivery into a crowded box of team-mates to attack, as well as his competence at scoring directly from a free-kick are two excellent reasons to include him in their future plans.
Getting the best out of Ireland
As for Stephen Ireland, it’s slightly more difficult to imagine what he could bring.
Undoubtedly, the 27-year-old is a very talented footballer who has proven before that he can mix it with some of the best footballers around – back in the 2008-09 season, he was a pivotal member of Manchester City’s make-up, grabbing nine goals and appearing 35 times for the Citizens.
Since then, his form has dropped dramatically following a series of misfortunes due to injuries and managers who favour others in his stead. In truth, he has looked a shadow of the player who excited Premier League audiences nearly half a decade ago. However, with Ireland back playing regular first-team football with the Potters, and now showing an eagerness to get involved in Noel King’s set-up and possibly even beyond, it’s possible that the former Aston Villa player might rediscover his old form once again.
But if one thing is certain – he certainly needs to improve.
Much like Andy Reid, Ireland will add an extra option in attack if he does eventually rejoin the Green Army’s revolution, and should really help inject them with some much-needed flair, something many fans desperately crave to see.
Offensive creativity is something that the Stoke City midfielder has always been keen to provide no matter who he’s plying his trade with, and to nurture that natural tendency is something the next manager should definitely aim to do upon arrival. With a whole host of promising prospects beginning to take shape for the international team, once the current qualifying stage comes to an end, a brighter and more promising period may well await.
Clearly, finding the right man at the helm to steer the Irish to better performances will be vital for our Euro 2016 hopes, but it’s even more comforting to know that a whole host of new options will be available for a side who looked to have been stagnating under the predictable, restricted ideas of Trapattoni.