Irish football legend Ray Houghton has told Irish fans to enjoy themselves when they travel to Poland for Euro 2012 this summer because Trapattoni’s charges may be involved for longer than people think.
Speaking to supporters on the ‘YBIG Footie Show’, the hero of Stuttgart and Giant’s Stadium believes the Republic of Ireland still have a good chance of qualifying from what some believe to be a ‘group of death’ with world champions Spain, Italy and Croatia.
“They will be tough games but they’re the games the players will be relishing. Spain are the best team in the world and Italy are masters at tournaments but we still have a great chance to get through the group. A win in the first match against Croatia would set us up well’, said Houghton.
The former Liverpool and Aston Villa star and now member of RTE’s football panel played in three major tournaments with Ireland, putting the ball in the English net at Euro ’88, scoring an Italia ’90 penalty on that stifling afternoon in Genoa and hitting that wonder goal in the famous win over Italy at USA ’94. He feels that this current crop of Irish stars could experience something similar.
“They will really enjoy it. From the players point of view, the fact it’s in Poland rather than Ukraine will make a big difference. They will have less time waiting around in airports to catch different planes and more time to focus on the matches coming up.”
Ray was joined on the Irish supporters’ show hosted by Dave O’Grady by Póg Mo Goal’s James, Irish fans John in Dublin, Paul in London and Conor from Armagh who is based in Leeds and they took the opportunity to put a few questions to Houghton.
Q: Do all of the lads from Euro ’88 and Italia ’90 stay in touch or have you all naturally drifted away?
Ray: Some of us still keep in contact and we often see ex-internationals at Ireland matches.
Q: Should Jack Charlton have taken your former Oxford colleague and YBIG legend Dave Langan to Euro ’88?
Ray: Jack didn’t seem to fancy Langy for that tournament but you have to remember we had a lot of great defenders in the squad at that time, including Paul McGrath.
Q: While you were coaching the Irish fans’ team for their match against Wales, Barry Hand took one of the worst shots ever seen in the history of football. He was one yard out from the goal line, with an open goal and somehow managed to scoop the ball over the bar. Have you ever seen anything as bad as that in your years watching and playing football?
Ray: I never saw a miss as bad as that but I have also missed some bad ones in my time.
Over the past few years Houghton has been a much in-demand soccer pundit working with RTE, Sky Sports and TalkSport but says that he likes to play golf to unwind and admits to becoming quite competitive.
Asked if he could take some responsibility for the craze that became Football Manager, the game he helped develop with Sports Interactive, Houghton was pleased with its popularity.
“It was important that we didn’t get it perfect because no football manager’s job is perfect. It was great to be involved with the game.”
However, he revealed that he doesn’t think he would get involved in management in reality.
“I think that I would have needed to get into it a lot earlier for this to be an option. I feel I could do a job somewhere, but it’s not something I am thinking about.”
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