King relishing Germany clash
Published 08/09/2013 | 15:51
Noel King has told his Ireland Under-21 players they should relish the task of going head-to-head with Germany's potential stars of the future.
Ireland meet the Germans at the Showgrounds in Sligo on Monday evening sitting proudly above the visitors in European Championship qualifying Group Six on goals scored.
However, both sides have played just one game each - Ireland won 4-1 in the Faroe Islands, who lost 3-0 to Germany on Friday night, last month - and manager King knows his players will face a much sterner task this time around.
He said: "Everybody who is in football knows the quality of the German set-up. They have been setting the standards at throughout the age groups for years.
"It's going to be a tough, tough match against great opposition. But anybody who is involved in football relishes the opportunity to test themselves against the best, and our players will be coming up against some of the best Under-21 players there are.
"We have got a valuation of some of their players and the value of their group is just astronomical.
"They could field two or three teams in this age group and be competitive, so it's a great test for my players."
Ireland's preparations for the game have been disrupted by the loss of Bristol City defender Derrick Williams and QPR midfielder Frankie Sutherland through injury, with Barry McNamee of Derry City and Aston Villa's Graham Burke having been drafted in.
However, King is hopeful that the confidence gained from the win in Toftir, which was secured by Matt Doherty's double and goals from Samir Carruthers and Aiden O'Brien, as well as recent victories over Italy and Holland, will serve them well.
He said: "The Faroes, they are the games you are expected to win, but we went there, played well and got the goals, as did Germany.
"We have beaten Italy and beaten Holland, which were two amazing results for us and we have to take confidence from that.
"Can we go and get a result against Germany? It will be very difficult, but we have got to believe we can."
Ireland finished third in their group behind Italy and Turkey in the last campaign having drawn 2-2 with the Italians, who went on to lose to Spain in the final, in Sligo and beaten them 4-2 in Casarano.
But for several of King's players, it proved the platform for bigger things, and he has encouraged the current crop to follow in their footsteps.
He said: "We have had two players progress to the senior team recently, young Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick, who are eligible to play for us, and it is great to see them going forward to Giovanni Trapattoni's team.
"Maybe one or two more could follow them. I never like to highlight players, and it's not my job.
"It's the senior manager's job and he will do that in his time, but it's good for my players to aspire to that."
While the senior team's hopes of making it to next summer's World Cup finals in Brazil look forlorn, the Under-21s have their sights set firmly on a trip to the Czech Republic in June 2015, although their manager knows how big an ask that may prove to be with Montenegro and Romania also standing in their way.
King said: "Germany are hot favourites, and I have seen Montenegro and they are very good, they have some very talented players.
"Romania are a massive football nation and they are very competitive too, so it's between Romania, Montenegro and ourselves to see who can stay closest to the Germans."