Republic of Ireland are in need of more players with a winning mentality akin to Roy Keane, according to former international Stephen Elliot.
Stephen Kenny’s squad now know who they will be up against in their bid to qualify for the World Cup in 2022.
Among Ireland’s group are Serbia, who lost to Scotland on penalties in the Euros qualifiers last month.
This result would give Irish supporters hope of beating Serbia, as Scotland and Ireland are often seen to be at a similar level.
However, Scotland had the benefit of players embedded in the top teams in England, drilling a winning mentality into them, and giving them the experience of playing alongside, and against, world class footballers daily.
Speaking on Football Saturday on Off The Ball, Elliot believes that Ireland have not had the same benefits since the days of Roy Keane.
“I was interested in how he carried himself,” Elliott said. “For a young lad, I was only 20 at the time, I was very curious to see how Roy prepared for games even.
“[I looked at] what he ate, how did he act in the changing room before a match.”
Elliott suggested that, regardless of the opposition or the importance of the match, Keane would never adjust his pre-game preparation.
He brought the same professionalism and winning mentality into the changing room no matter who Ireland were facing.
“I remember we played a game in the Faroes, and it was like, even though it was the Faroe Islands, you could see it didn’t matter, nothing changed for him,” Elliott said.
“He was so focused on the game, that that was the thing that I though made him so good.”
Keane’s ability to influence the players around him was evident to Elliott from an early point in his days playing alongside the Irish legend.
“His presence on the pitch, he wasn’t a screamer or a shouter, but you just knew he was on the pitch; I don’t know how you can explain it,” Elliott said.
“You just knew he was on the pitch behind you, he never gave the ball away. He kind of got the best out of other players as well, even without having to do anything.
“I think players just went that extra yard when he was in the team.”
Ireland need players like Keane again
The conversation was sparked by a text sent into the show suggesting that Scotland’s Andrew Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Scott McTominay brought the winning mentality to their national side from their top English clubs.
“Like that guy that texted in [suggested], that is a winning mentality thing,” Elliott said.
“Maybe he is right about the Scotland thing, the players that are at these bigger clubs where there is much more expectancy on them to win games and be successful.
“Maybe we do need more of that around the Ireland squad.”
Elliott suggested that at the height of Irish football under Jack Charlton, Irish players were scattered throughout the bigger clubs in England and Europe.
“We had so many players playing at the top end of the [leagues],” Elliott said.
“Now, it was a different style of football and different world back then, but we had players in Manchester United and Liverpool, challenging at the top end of the English leagues.
“That is no coincidence that we went on and qualified for World Cups and beat big teams in European championships.
“We need to get back to doing that again. The more players we have at the higher level then ultimately the better teams we are going to have.”
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