'The manager and Roy showed a lot of faith in me' - Walters thankful for Ireland selection

The Ireland forward on Euro 2016 qualification and learning from four years ago.

Walters was the hero of the campaign, scoring five goals.
Walters was the hero of the campaign, scoring five goals.
Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

JON WALTERS HAS revealed how reporting for international duty with Ireland provided him with the opportunity to prove his worth to club manager Mark Hughes after falling out of favour at Stoke City.

The forward found himself down the pecking order at the Britannia Stadium during the early stages of the 2014/15 season but Martin O’Neill placed faith in him despite his lack of match sharpness.

Walters featured just once for Stoke in their opening seven league outings but played a key role during Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying win in Georgia and 1-1 draw in Germany.

And speaking to Newstalk’s Off The Ball last night, the 32-year-old credited Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane for helping restore his confidence.

“It’s been a good couple of years,” he told Ger Gilroy and Joe Molloy. “The manager and Roy, they’ve shown a lot of faith in me. When you go to this time last year, I didn’t start the season at Stoke.

“I wasn’t starting the games and yet I came away on internationals and I played every game.

“I wasn’t playing in the club and it’s always difficult if you’re not playing, fitness isn’t there. I was thankful for that because I wasn’t playing the games for Stoke.”

Walters would go on to become the hero of Ireland’s successful qualification campaign, scoring a brace in the second-leg of the play-off win over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The former Ispwich striker epitomised the work ethic, tenacity and never-say-die attitude of O’Neill’s squad and Walters insisted the players always believed they would book a place in France.

“We all still believed,” he continued. “We knew Scotland had to go to Georgia which we found out ourselves is not an easy place to go and a couple of Scottish players wrote us off after that game and said ‘there’s three teams in qualification [and] Ireland may think they’ve got a chance but they haven’t,’ and that spurred a few players on.

“But the belief was always there.”

Jonathan Walters celebrates scoring Super Jon has become a key player for Martin O'Neill. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

The start to this season was very much a case of déjà vu for Walters as he was unable to hold down a starting berth at the Potteries but he’s since re-established himself as a key cog in Stoke’s wheel.

What are they
really like?

Rare insights on sport's biggest names from the writers who know them best. Listen to Behind the Lines podcast.

Become a Member

He’ll hope to continue his prolific form throughout the course of the year, leading up to next summer’s European Championships.

It will be Walters’ second major tournament with Ireland after he was part of the Euro 2012 squad which endured a forgettable campaign in Poland under Giovanni Trapattoni.

But Walters is adamant there will be no repeat of that performance this time around.

“I think going into the last one, well I think it was a type of Italian way to do it,” he added. “That’s how the Italy team would do and those players may be used to it from a very young age.

“We were locked away in a hotel, we were away for a long time before the camp, during the camp and by the end of it, some lads that weren’t involved, weren’t getting any game-time, they were just thinking at the end of it ‘I can’t wait for this to end, I want to get home’”.

You can listen to the full interview here.

There have been even more arrests of Fifa officials accused of taking bribes

‘There is something different about this Irish team’

About the author:

Ryan Bailey

Read next: