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Houghton: McGeady can handle boos

Glasgow-born Republic of Ireland hero Ray Houghton has warned that Scottish jeers for Aiden McGeady could inspire the former Celtic winger against the land of his birth.

Houghton helped Ireland to a crucial 1-0 European Championship qualifying victory over Scotland at Hampden in 1987 after being overlooked by his native land.

The former Liverpool midfielder admitted it was strange playing against Scotland but he was driven on by the jeers from the terraces that he used to frequent as a boy watching the national team and Celtic.

The win, courtesy of a Mark Lawrenson goal, sent the Irish well on their way to the 1988 European Championship finals and helped launch a golden era for Irish football.

Houghton, who left Glasgow as a teenager for Fulham, said: "I did have a trial when I was 17-18 for the youth set-up and Andy Roxburgh was the manager.

"I've had a laugh about it with Andy since. He would know all the Scottish-based players but didn't really know a great deal about the lads who came up from England. It didn't work out and it wasn't a particularly good time.

"After that, nothing happened. I played for Fulham and Oxford, still hadn't heard anything from Scotland, and really thought my chance had gone.

"Someone could have even given me some encouragement that I was heading in the right direction but I didn't hear anything whatsoever.

"Even when it was in the newspapers that I was going to play for the Republic of Ireland, there was still some time that someone could have had a chat with me, and no-one did."

Soon Houghton was lining up against Scotland in a goalless draw in Dublin in October 1986 before going back to his home city to put a fatal blow in Scotland's Euro 88 qualifying hopes.

"It was a bit surreal," he said. "I was born three miles from Hampden Park and used to walk it from Castlemilk to cup finals.

"I had great memories of Hampden and it was a bit surreal going there and meeting family and friends who I had grown up with.

"But I was very focused. I knew what was required and I was determined to go out there and put on a performance and try to win the match."

Houghton, who later netted famous winners against England and Italy at major finals, was not put off his stride by the type of reception Paisley-born McGeady is likely to face on Friday night with the focus now all on him after his Everton team-mate James McCarthy pulled out with a hamstring injury.

"It didn't hurt at all," he said. "Goodness, you have got to be more grown up than that. It's not that bad at all.

"So many great players in the past have been booed to put them off their games, I was just a lad who played for Ireland instead of Scotland.

"It didn't bother me at all and if anything it inspired me to do better.

"I know Aiden has played in Celtic-Rangers (fixtures) and it doesn't get much bigger than that. If he can handle that, he can handle playing at Celtic Park against Scotland."

Houghton also dismissed suggestions that the visitors could be put off their stride by an incident at the team hotel that saw police and an ambulance called.

Republic boss Martin O'Neill and the Football Association of Ireland have both given assistant manager Roy Keane their full support following the subsequent publicity.

"It's not nice to see and I'm sure no-one wanted to see it, particularly Roy and the players," said Houghton, who was brought back to Glasgow by William Hill to talk about the game.

"But players are very resilient. Their focus will be on the game itself, not something that happened a couple of days beforehand.

"It's hard to talk about it because we don't know what has happened.

"I spoke to Roy and I've seen a different side to him. He's very focused. He has two jobs now, one with Aston Villa and one with the Republic, and I'm sure in the not-too-distant future he will want to become a manager."


From Belfast Telegraph