Callum Robinson believes a good start by Ireland to the World Cup qualifying campaign would transform the mood both inside and outside a squad that was beset by problems in the autumn.
A lack of goals then and the failure to qualify for a European Championship the country is still scheduled to host four games in, entirely overshadowed the scale of the transformation in style that was undertaken, he feels, but all that could be changed in an evening if Stephen Kenny’s side can get the better of Serbia in Belgrade.
“If we can have a good start in our group, people will start thinking ‘Ireland have turned up here’, says the West Brom striker. “The next two games are massive. Sometimes, even getting one good result can pick you up. We have to start brightly.”
Robinson, who was one of many players to be ruled out of games before Christmas as the squad suffered a succession of coronavirus related problems insists that people need to remember the scale of what Stephen Kenny was having to deal with during his first few international windows.
“It was tough with the team changing all the time because of all the Covid stuff,” he says. “To be down something like 14 or 15 of the players he had picked in his first squad for that last game and have to make all those changes is tough.
“But I don’t think that anyone should be down about it (because) you know what it’s like . . . one goes then two go in or we can get a win even if it’s off an own goal. You get a win and then everyone just picks themselves and we go again. We need to just play and hopefully score.
“I said before the Slovakia game that I was confident and I was and I thought we did really well that night. We were unlucky to lose on penalties but I thought that we created chances, we did really well, broke Slovakia down through the thirds.
“They were no mugs, they are a good team, they’ve got some top, top players but I felt we were comfortable in that game all night. It was just about getting the ball over the line, which is annoying.
“I don’t think many supporters had seen football like that from us in a long time. So it’s small steps but as we said, the main thing is the result and that needs to change. The goals need to come so it’s understandable that people will be annoyed but I think we’re going in the right direction. But these games are massive for us”
The 26 year-old’s own lack of goals in a team that has been fighting for its top flight survival has cost him his place at club level, something he good naturedly accepts he can have few complaints about. But he remains hopeful of featuring for Ireland against the Serbs and is flexible - if he gets that chance - regarding the role that he plays.
“I just have to hope that the gaffer knows that I’ve got the ability,” he says. “I’ve been quite unlucky with all the Covid stuff in the last few trips but I’m back training with the boys, and hopefully (he considers) picking me despite the lack of minutes. Hopefully, he knows what I can do for him and how I can help the team and progress and get ourselves to the World Cup.
“I had to sit out the last few games which was disappointing,” he continues, “but you can see that the lads are playing a different style of football now and I want to be a part of that and hopefully this trip, we can get a win, that will help with confidence and we can really push on from there.”