Jason Knight Calls On Young Players To 'Stand Up' Amid Disastrous Ireland Form

By Gary Connaughton

While Ireland's loss to Ukraine on Wednesday night was an incredibly poor team performance, one of the few bright-spots from the game was the form of Jason Knight.

The Cabinteely native shines every time he takes to the field at international level, bringing a huge amount of energy and intent to the side. At 21-years old, he is a massive talent.

It is surprising that we don't see him in the starting XI more often under Stephen Kenny. He has been in and out of the side despite the fact that he always performs well when called upon.

This international window will certainly act as a wakeup call for those in and around the Ireland camp. Having improved rapidly over the latter half of 2021, it was expected that they would kick on in this year's UEFA Nations League. However, the reality has been very different.

The 180 minutes or so against Armenia and Ukraine were well short of the standard required. On both occasions, many of the more experienced Irish names failed to perform. Is it time for the foundations built by Stephen Kenny over the last couple of years to bear fruit.

Jason Knight believes so.

While still in the infancy of his career, he feels it is time for him and the other younger players in the squad to stand up and be counted.

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Look, it's two disappointing results. We all know that, that starts on Saturday. I can't really put my finger on it, but we as individuals have to do better, and as a collective as well.

It can be (down to the long season). I think everyone gave their all. There were some good moments in the game and some good periods that we had. But I think in those moments we need to capitalise and get the first goal, because as you have seen in the last two games, the first goal is vital...

There is a lot of young players, but we're in this squad now and we need to stand up as men. We can't be leaning on the older lads as much, we need to stand up, expect more from ourselves and deliver on the big stage.

The senior lads have been great with us. It's a very honest group, but we all need to come together and put performances in individually first and foremost. That includes the young lads as well.

Knight is at the forefront of a new generation of players that are now pivotal members of the current squad. The likes of Gavin Bazunu, Nathan Collins, Adam Idah, Troy Parrott, Josh Cullen, and Chiedozie Ogbene have all established themselves as key contributors under the current manager.

Saturday's game against Scotland will provide the ideal opportunity for some of those players to take the next step in their development. Coming off the back of two poor losses, a pivotal fixture against a neighbouring nation should be enough to get the blood flowing in front of a packed Aviva Stadium.

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Jason Knight is already relishing the occasion, hoping to answer any lingering questions about this team and its manager.

It's going to be a good occasion, it should be a good game on Saturday. Scotland are a very good team, but we know we are as well. Hopefully we will get a good result.

You always need the crowd on your side. Ever since I have been in the squad, the crowd has been absolutely fantastic. They're the best fans in the world and are always behind us. Us as players need to step up and give them something to cheer about as well...

I've seen the highs and lows of international football now. I need to stand up and demand more from myself as well to try and drag us out of this, something everyone else is trying to do as well. We have a big game on Saturday and that's the only way we can put it right...

There's no talk of that (about the manager). the manager has been great with us. We have had two disappointing results but we need to go on Saturday and put it right. That's all that matters to us.

A positive result tomorrow is a must to ease the building pressure on this team.

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If Ireland fail to show up for a third consecutive game, real questions will be asked about the direction in which this group is travelling.

SEE ALSO: Martin O'Neill Questions Ireland's Lack Of Progress Under Stephen Kenny

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