Roy Keane expects Jon Walters to be fit for Sweden clash

‘Working with the Irish senior team is a pretty good job; in fact it’s a brilliant job’

Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane expects Jon Walters for Monday’s Euro 2016 opener against Sweden. Photograph: Inpho

Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane expects Jon Walters for Monday’s Euro 2016 opener against Sweden. Photograph: Inpho

 

Roy Keane says that he expects Jon Walters to be available for selection for Ireland’s opening European Championship game on Monday after the Stoke City striker took a fairly full part in Saturday morning’s training session at the Stade de Montbauron in Versailles.

The 32 year-old played a limited part in the warm up and open part of the session but Keane insisted that he had then joined in with the main group and done well in the part that was conducted behind closed doors. There is, he admits, the chance that the player, who has been struggling with an Achilles problem, will suffer a reaction, but Martin O’Neill’s assistant seemed very upbeat about the player’s prospects of being involved on Monday.

“I always think you talk to players and get feedback from them in these situations but if they train one or two days before the match, if they cross that line, then they’re fit, simple as that,” he said.

“The plan is to have him right for Monday then worry about the other games after that. There’s always a risk involved but we’re just pleased that he managed to get through the session, a pretty good session, it’s not like he just walked around. There were no reactions for Robbie Keane or Robbie Brady so all the players are available for selection which is obviously good news for the manager.”

Keane said after Friday’s curtain raising encounter between France and Romania, there is a general air of relief within the camp that Ireland’s first game is now finally within sight.

“We’ve had the opening game now and there’s a decent buzz amongst the squad,” he said. “After two or three weeks together now, we’re ready for the game. Training is all well and good; possession, crossing and finishing, 10 v 10s and nine v nines, 10 v eight, whatever it might be... but you can’t beat the real thing.”

Sweden, he acknowledges will be tough opponents and he absolutely insists Ireland are taking nothing for granted but there is is still a belief that if they produce their best over the next couple of weeks then they could do well against any of their group rivals with the points they need to progress potentially coming from any of the three games.

“I think we’ll see how things pan out,” he said. “I don’t think as a group we’re thinking that Sweden is going to be more winnable than any of the others; far from it. You have to have belief but it’s easier said than done. I think if you look at Ireland in the European Championships; it’s six games we’ve played and it’s one win, one draw and four defeats; three goals scored and 11 conceded so we know it’s going to be tough.

“But if you speak to any of the players, you see their desire and passion to do well for the country. Obviously we need quality; we need somebody to produce a little bit of magic like we saw last night. But we know about what this group bring to the party. It’s about going out there and doing it on Monday.

“We believe that if we perform as well as we can then we have a pretty good chance of getting a result against Sweden but our intention is not to focus on the other games or on beating Sweden; I think that was the mistake with Ireland in the last campaign when people seemed to think we were almost guaranteed to win the first game and that we’d nick a point but you can’t think that way. And we also know that if we’re not quite at it there’s every chance we’re going to get beaten.”

The intention, in any case, is to take it one game at a time but, he says of the Swedes: “They’re vastly experienced, big and physically strong team. They know their jobs, they’re well drilled. They have players with lots of caps. They’re physically strong, as a lot of the Scandinavian teams are and set pieces will play a big part in it... they’re a good team.”

As for his contract situation and the fact that he has signed up for another two years, Keane said he had effectively decided to put his hopes of returning to club management on hold for that time.

“Obviously, yeah,” he said. “I said all along that I had to wait to see that the manager’s plans were. Things fell into place over the last few days, that he was going to stay on and when he wanted me to be part of it I didn’t really hesitate. Working with the Irish senior team is a pretty good job; in fact it’s a brilliant job; I really enjoy it. There have been other offers while I’ve been in the job but nothing that’s rocked my boat for me to leave.

“The club stuff...? I’m 44 years and I am keen to get back into it but there’s plenty of time for that. When I said I wanted to do it in the short term, I meant in the next few years, not the next few weeks. It’s been enjoyable. It’s been tough but happy to be staying on for another two years.”

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