He made no attempt to disguise his reaction to Ireland’s latest defeat at this level: “I told them we should be ashamed of ourselves. We have lost to the worst team I have ever seen play at this level” he said, “and that tells you all you need to know about our performance.”
The match was played on a playing surface that was no better than any commonage you care to mention in Ireland and the surface may have contributed to the knee injury suffered by Mark Rossiter that caused the Irish much concern last night. Givens said: “It looks a bit serious at the moment and I am hoping it is not cruciate ligament damage, but we’ll have to wait and see.”
But the story of the game was Ireland’s total lack of pride or passion in their performance. They surrendered the goal in the 70th minute when Albania substitute Rizyandlki ran clear of a square defence to lob the advancing goalkeeper, Graham Stack. Givens was dismissive of Ireland’s attempts to prevent the goal: “Our centre-half, Jim Goodwin, allowed the centre-forward get on the wrong side of him and our goalkeeper, Jim Stack, made a bad decision to come forward” he said, “what else is there to say?”
The fact that beggars belief is that the majority of these players were on Ireland’s team when they won a European Championship at U16 level in Scotland in 1998. There were give gold medal winners in the current squad.
Ireland did not stir themselves until the closing ten minutes. Liam Miller, one of the few to emerge with his reputation intact, struck the inside of an upright with a free in the 88th minute, substitute Noel Hunt ran clear only to have their goalkeeper deflect his shot around the post.
The rest was eminently forgettable: “There was nothing positive for me to take from that game” said Givens, “we have to make decisions now. We will look at the squad and any players we identify not capable of going on to Brian’s (Kerr) squad will have to be replaced. That’s our only course.”
Ireland are now firmly rooted at the foot of the Championship table alongside Georgia with one point from four games.
Givens has always said the object of the exercise at this level is not so much to win as to develop individual players and make senior internationals out of them.
He said: “We just cannot ignore the attitude of some of the players. The pitch was not right, we know that, but that does not explain everything or excuse everything. We’ve got to think of bringing the next group forward ahead of their time.”
IRELAND (4-4-2): Graham Stack (Arsenal/Beveren); Stephen Brennan (Newcastle Utd), Jim Goodwin (Stockport County), Clifford Byrne (Scunthorpe), Stephen Paisley (Manchester City) (Mark Rossiter, Sunderland 46) ; Kevin O’Connor (Brentford) (Hunt, Dunfermline 76), John Thompson (Nottingham Forest), Liam Miller (Celtic), Sean Thornton (Sunderland); Graham Barrett (Arsenal/Brighton), Jonathan Daly (Stockport County).