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John Aldridge Sees Rice & Grealish Departures As Sliding Doors Moment For Ireland

John Aldridge Sees Rice & Grealish Departures As Sliding Doors Moment For Ireland
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton
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The Republic of Ireland have made strides in player development under Stephen Kenny, blooding a huge number of young prospects over the last couple of years.

The age profile within the team has shifted dramatically, with the likes of Gavin Bazunu, Nathan Collins, Josh Cullen, and Michael Obafemi establishing themselves as key contributors within the side.

In saying that, the squad is still lacking one key ingredient.

If recent years have taught us anything, it's that having one or two top tier talents in your team can make all of the difference in international football. Wales are a prime example, making some tournament runs on the back of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, including reaching the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

While Stephen Kenny will no doubt hope that a couple of members of the current squad could blossom into such a star, it is lacking as things stand.

John Aldridge identifies sliding doors moment for Ireland

Of course, there are a couple of names who could have fit that bill.

Declan Rice and Jack Grealish, two players who were in and around Ireland squads at various levels, have gone on to establish themselves as some of the premier talents in the English squad.


Rice was capped by Ireland at senior level but not in a competitive fixture, while Grealish played with the team up to U21 level and turned down a senior call-up.


While Ireland supporters have since long got over their decision to play for England, John Aldridge believes that it is somewhat of a sliding doors moment for the side.

Speaking at an event to mark the 30th anniversary of Liverpool FC's partnership with Carlsberg, the former-Ireland striker said that the squad needs one or two top talents in order to push on to the next level.


Football changes. It's different now to when Jack [Charlton] managed and I played. The FAI have got to adapt, the manager has go to adapt, the players have got to adapt.

You've got to compete. If Wales can do it, why can't we? Scotland have now turned it around and are doing some great stuff. We are no different to those countries, we have proved it in the past.

It's just about getting the players through and getting there...

You've got to hope for that, for young players to kick on. If you had Declan Rice and Jack Grealish, if they had been stamped down, you'd be talking differently about it.

Unfortunately, the manager we had didn't give them the cap that we needed, for Declan Rice in particular.

You're looking at a different batch of players now. You need two or three players, like when Damien Duff and Robbie Keane came through. Then you get others on top of it, that's what Wales have done and other lesser nations to get where they are.

Ireland's squad is a young one and it will be hoped that a couple of the players can make huge jumps in their development in the years ahead.

For now, they will be hoping to build on some of the good work done over the last couple of seasons. Their Euro 2024 qualifying group, which features both Netherlands and France, certainly won't offer Stephen Kenny and co an easy path into the tournament.

John Aldridge is hopeful that the current manager is the man to get Ireland back to their former glories, although he still has a long way to go to prove that will be the case.


It's hard to assess, isn't it? We could have done better and we could have done worse.

It's a high profile job and he's got to be successful. You've still got to get results. People say he hasn't got the players, but you've got to get results and find a way to do it, to be consistent.

We will soon know when this next group takes place where we stand.

I just want us to places where we got, to get there we need to have the right manager. I just wish him all the best and hope he can do it for us.

If the team can finish outside the top two in their qualification group as expected, they could be offered a route into the play-offs via their UEFA Nations League finish.

Stephen Kenny would certainly have been hoping for an easier draw for a campaign that he admitted could define his spell as Ireland boss.


Pictured is Liverpool FC Legend John Aldridge, who this week visited Belfast and Dublin in celebration of Carlsberg’s 30th year in partnership with the club, alongside former Liverpool FC frontman Robbie Fowler.

Passionate supporters of the Reds since 1992, Carlsberg teamed up with Aldo and Fowler to surprise a group of unsuspecting fans at a Liverpool FC supporters’ five a side match. To find out how they got on, follow Carlsberg Ireland on Instagram.

SEE ALSO: John Aldridge Feels That A Jack Charlton Statue At The Aviva Is 'Long Overdue'

john aldridge jack charlton


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