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'Robbie is in the same sort of situation as I was at USA 94. He knows the score'

Former Ireland international John Aldridge has been talking about the role the country’s record goalscorer can play at Euro 2016.

Alridge during the 1994 World Cup game with Mexico.
Alridge during the 1994 World Cup game with Mexico.
Image: INPHO

AT 35, JOHN Aldridge was one of the more experienced players brought to the 1994 World Cup by Ireland manager Jack Charlton.

With Niall Quinn and Tony Cascarino both out injured, the then Tranmere Rovers man was one of just three recognised strikers in the squad along with Tommy Coyne and David Kelly.

And while Coyne started three of the four tournament matches as a lone frontman, Aldridge was picked in the 0-0 draw with Norway and he also made two appearances from the bench — scoring a goal in the 2-1 defeat to Mexico.

Current captain Robbie Keane, the same age as Aldridge was at those finals, is expected to be included in the 23 when Martin O’Neill names his squad on Tuesday night.

The country’s all-time record caps holder and goalscorer is no longer first choice but Aldridge believes he can still offer something as a substitute.

“Robbie is in the same sort of situation now with his age as I was,” he said. “He knows the score with his experience and the value he brings to the squad and for me he is still vital. so vital.

“People can talk about playing in the USA and whatever, but he knows what it’s all about and what it takes. He is sharp in his mind.

“What he has lost in his legs over the years he has gained in his mind and he’ll see things earlier than when he was younger and just full of pace.”

Republic of Ireland v Netherlands - International Friendly - Aviva Stadium Keane is likely to be a bit-part player at Euro 2016. Source: PA Wire/Press Association Images

Ipswich Town’s Daryl Murphy is also likely to make the plane to France despite the fact that he hasn’t got  a single international goal to his name in 20 games.

Aldridge, who himself took 20 matches to score his first goal for the Boys in Green, accepts that such a drought can mess with a player’s confidence but says Murphy just needs a bit of luck.

“I couldn’t score for 19 or 20 bloody games and it really got to me,” he added. “When you get a goal of that stature it really lifts you as a player and you start to believe in yourself a lot more.

b4a186b8-f48d-4b8d-9d86-e18fc6dd1a98 Aldridge with Irish fans as he launched the FootBall or Nothing campaign. Source: Cody Glenn/SPORTSFILE

“Because strikers do question their ability at times. Every game you go in after that you feel confident that if any chance falls your way, you’ll stick it away.

“The first one is always the most important, take it from me. You do question yourself and sometimes the goal starts to look a little bit smaller and the goalkeeper starts to look a little bit bigger.

“You just need a slice of luck with the first one and then it opens up. The most important thing is to keep trying to get into those goal situations and keep on getting in there and don’t start doubting your ability.

I never went more than five games or so without a goal at club level and all of a sudden I was doubting my own ability. I knew I was doing right by the team within our system and the way Jack played.

“It didn’t help me sleep but the only thing that got me going was that we were a force and no one could beat us and we had a really good team. What I done was very important for the team but personally it really got to me and really hurt me if I’m honest.”

John Aldridge and Kevin Sheedy 15/11/1989 Aldridge celebrating with Kevin Sheedy after scoring against Malta. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Aldridge’s first competitive goal for Ireland came in a 2-0 win over Malta to seal their place at the Italia 90 and he admits that it was a relief to finally find the back of the net.

“It was the monkey of my back and all my negativity disappeared and the last 40-odd games I played, to score 19 goals or whatever it was was more like my goals per game average. I was always a goal every two games.

“But getting that first goal was a stumbling block for me and the hardest time I’ve had on a football pitch,. The fact we were qualifying for 88 and 90, it did help me but you do question yourself.”

As part of their #FootbALLorNothing campaign Life Style Sports, the football specialists, in conjunction with Umbro, official kit supplier to the FAI, gave 50 Irish supporters the Ultimate Football Fan Experience by recreating the open top bus tour from Italia ’90. The fans were honoured on the way to support the Boys in Green taking on the Netherlands in the Aviva Stadium last Friday night. For further information www.lifestylesports.com

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Ben Blake

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