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Balls.ie Talks To Stephen Hunt About Ireland Vs England

Balls.ie Talks To Stephen Hunt About Ireland Vs England
By Will Slattery Updated

Picture credit: Barry Cregg / SPORTSFILE

In advance of Wednesday’s massive game against England at Wembley, which is being shown live on Setanta Ireland, we are starting the build up, bringing you back to that infamous night and plotting the key story lines that makes May 29th, one of the biggest nights of the sporting calendar.

We caught up with Ireland international and Setanta analyst Stephen Hunt ahead of the game against England to get his opinion on Ireland's chances as well as the origins of his untameable hair.

Ireland haven’t played England in a long time, even though it is just a friendly how special will it be for the players?

It will be a great occasion. Obviously there is a massive rivalry between the two countries so there will be a really good atmosphere.

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England may have the better team on paper but will the atmosphere around the game make the Irish players raise their game?

The atmosphere won’t necessarily make the players play better, if that was the case we would have played better at the Euros. It is really important that our midfield put some crunching tackles in early and try to cancel out some of their better players.

How disappointing is it for you to miss out on the chance to play England at Wembley?

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It’s very frustrating. This is the first summer in 6 or 7 years that I haven’t been involved with Ireland so it is a little strange. I understand the manager’s decision but obviously I would love to be involved.

What do you think of the way the team is set up to take on England?

I like it. I’m expecting to see a 4-4-1-1 with Robbie playing behind Long. I think Shane Long will be the key man, not just with goals but with his runs and how he pulls the England defence around. I think if Jonathan Walters can get physical with Ashley Cole it will make a big difference too.

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You’ve played over in England for a long time, ever try to convince any of your teammates to declare for Ireland?

Not really, if anything I tried to discourage them so they wouldn’t take any caps off me!

Someone put a pig’s head in Kenwyne Jones’ locker at Stoke, what sort of antics went on in the dressing rooms that you were involved in?

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When you first go over to England, some of the stuff that happens to youth players borders on abuse. It is all pretty good natured but stuff like stripping them naked and covering them in shoe polish used to go on. Nowadays there are so many rules and regulations that you don’t see that kind of thing too much. Luckily nothing like that ever happened to me.

Tell us the origins of your long head of hair.

I just started growing it long when I first started playing professionally and I’ve had it for around 7 years now. It has become a bit of a trademark so I just decided to keep it. When I retire I’ll probably cut in really short. If I went into management, the players wouldn’t respect me if I had long hair.

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Some Portuguese managers have long hair and they are considered cool though?

I don’t think I could pull off cool very well. If I go into management I will be more focused on keeping calm than being cool.

Footballers earn a good wage, did you buy anything extravagant with your first big pay check?

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No not really, I just went out and bought a house and a car. But the car was a Porsche so I was pretty pleased with that.

What’s the best thing about being a professional footballer?

Winning. Winning is the best buzz you can get as a footballer. It is only when you get older and you aren’t playing for a big club like Man United that you understand that most footballers do a lot more losing than winning.

Finally, how is Ireland going to do tonight?

I think if we stay disciplined we can get a 1-1 draw but if we play really well we might be able to nick it 2-1.

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