Steve Staunton hopes he can be the man to bring through the Republic of Ireland’s next ‘golden generation’ if he is given time to rebuild his country’s national side.
Six weeks after surprisingly being handed the reins, Staunton steps firmly into the international spotlight on Wednesday with Ireland taking on World Cup hopefuls Sweden at Lansdowne Road.
It is the start of a six-month countdown towards the opening game of the Republic’s latest bid to qualify for the European Championships.
The tournament has proved a heartbreaker for Ireland as they have qualified just once, and that was back in 1988 when Staunton was just embarking on his professional playing career.
After winning a record 102 caps for Ireland, Staunton knows the expectation he faces.
Yet after taking over from Brian Kerr, and following several retirements that came with Ireland falling short in their efforts to reach this summer’s World Cup, the Irish are a team in transition.
Gone are the experienced older heads in Roy Keane, Kenny Cunningham, and Matt Holland, and in have come six players without a cap to their name to face the Swedes.
It is why Staunton is hoping the supporters give him time, and do not place too many demands on him, with the 2010 World Cup in South Africa a more realistic aim than Euro 2008.
“Up until 1988 we had never achieved or qualified for anything, and then all of a sudden it exploded and it was fantastic,” Staunton said.
“We had the era of Jack Charlton, followed by Mick McCarthy, and they were exciting times.
“Okay, there were disappointments, but the expectations were high.
“Now it is a time to be realistic because if you look at the average age of the squad, it is young.
“There is experience, but there is also young talent coming through, but that is all it is at the moment – young talent.
“What we have to do is get the best out of them over the next couple of years, so by the third year we are looking at a more experienced, stable squad.
“These players have to be nurtured and developed through the system, which is why patience from the fans is so important.
“Beyond the current crop there are other players coming through, and whether I am lucky enough to see them emerge in the next four to six years remains to be seen.
“I hope I’m here to build.”