Steven Reid believes that the Republic of Ireland can complete a remarkable comeback by winning their crucial UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 10 qualifier against Russia at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The Irish began their campaign with demoralising defeats against Russia in Moscow and Switzerland in Dublin to find themselves rooted to the bottom of the group. "The game in Moscow last year was a real low point and to then get beaten at home by Switzerland was terrible," Reid, who plays for English club Blacburn Rovers FC, told uefa.com.
'Nothing was going right'
"We had played so well in the [FIFA] World Cup and then suddenly the magic had gone and we found ourselves bottom of the group. We basically still had the same team as we did in the summer but nothing was going right for us."
However, manager Mick McCarthy, who had led the Irish to the last 16 in Korea/Japan, resigned in November and his replacement, Brian Kerr, has lead a stirring comeback. "Mick's decision to resign was a shock to everyone but
Brian Kerr stepped in and you cannot argue with the results we've achieved under him," Reid said. "I think we've regained the momentum we had at the World Cup and while everyone knows Russia are a side to be respected, we are confident we can show them the real Republic in Dublin this weekend."
Ireland's impressive revival under Kerr began with a 2-1 victory in Georgia which was followed by a goalless draw in Albania and home victories against both opponents. All of a sudden, the Irish are second in the group, just two points behind leaders Switzerland.
However, Reid, who joined Blackburn from first division Millwall FC in July, admitted Ireland's turnaround will count for little if they do not take something from the meeting with Russia. "We have to be wary of getting carried away," the 22-year-old said. "Our job is far from finished and with Russia just three points behind us, with a slightly better goal difference, we could very quickly find ourselves struggling again if we don't perform on Saturday.
"Russia showed their resilience away from home in getting a 2-2 draw in Switzerland in the summer, so we won't be expecting them to roll over at Lansdowne Road.
We are a far better side than the one the Russians saw in Moscow a year ago but we mustn't make the mistake of forgetting what they did to us. Any side that scores four past us demands respect."
Reid made his international debut in a friendly against Croatia in August 2001 but injury has limited his number of appearances to nine to date. He is confident, however, that he can cement a regular place in the future - starting with Saturday when he is expected to start on the right side of midfield.
"Obviously I would have liked to play more games for Ireland but I am still young and in the early stages of my career," he said. "The competition for places in midfield is very intense at the moment and I know even when I'm fit I'm not always going to start."
Steven Reid's personal website is at www.icons.com
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