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Nathan Collins & U21 Team Are Out To Change Perception Of Irish Football

Nathan Collins & U21 Team Are Out To Change Perception Of Irish Football
Gary Connaughton
By Gary Connaughton
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Ireland have never had much success at U21 level. Of course there have been some standout results through the years, but sustained success over an entire qualifying group has largely been out of reach.

That is quickly changing.

The current crop of U21 players have played some exhilarating football during their qualifying campaign, bringing them to the brink of qualification for a first ever European Championships.

It is a squad with a huge amount of talent, especially in terms of strength-in-depth. Despite the fact that a number of key players have been promoted to the senior team, Jim Crawford has no shortage of options for Sunday's game against Iceland.

Nathan Collins is likely to play a key part in that game. Having started the campaign outside the starting XI, he will be a massively important players over the remaining couple of fixtures.

Speaking ahead of the game, the Stoke City player said that while others being unavailable may help his chances of starting, he can only concentrate on his own performances.

I can only do what I can do to let the manager see that I could start.

I'm going to work in training, so is every other player that comes into the squad. Every player has the same objective and that is to play, to work hard in training to get that spot.

Whoever is fighting for that spot is ready to go, but I want to fight for that spot as well. I'll be ready.

The fact that he has had a very impressive start to the season at club level certainly doesn't hurt his chances.


After being in a relegation scrap for much of last season, Stoke have looked like a team capable of challenging for promotion over the coming months. Collins has played in four of their games so far, only missing the others due to injury.

He has been enjoying his club football, with manager Michael O'Neill playing a big role in developing his game.

It's been good. The squad is big, it's good, it's healthy. There's a lot of competition and I like that. I'm enjoying the football that we're playing, the way we are, the league.

The games are coming thick and fast, it's great. I can't complain. The gaffer (Michael O'Neill) has given me a few chances and I just want to grab them, keep playing and enjoying my football...

The gaffer has done really well with me, I've learned a lot since he came in. Obviously he's going to let me know about my negative and positives, but he's there to answer questions when I ask him. Even his backroom staff have been good as well.

He does help me a lot with my game. He is good with me and younger players especially.

While Ireland have had little success at U21 level, Collins is no stranger to playing at the highest level for his country.

The Leixlip native has been capped at every level from U15 onwards, playing in two European Championships at U17 level. He is at the centre of the young generation of Irish talent that is currently emerging.


That group are not confined by the history of the national team. They know how good they are, and now they want to show the rest of the world what they can do.

I've seen so many players be so good throughout the years at my level or whatever age group. It's been so good, it's been positive.

We all have the same objective. We want to win, we need to win. People have a vendetta against Irish football in a way, but we want to show that we can play at the highest level and can beat teams.

We need that winning mentality if we want to do that...

I think everyone has that opinion of Ireland, that it's only a small country.

We know ourselves that we have good players in this group, we know what we can do. We know where we can cause damage and if we show up we can play any team.

That starts with Sunday's game against Iceland.

SEE ALSO: Nathan Collins Says Ireland U21s Ready To Make History Despite Key Absentees


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