John Giles: ‘Wales are no great shakes and they’re missing their best player’

John Giles discussed Ireland’s World Cup rescue mission with John Fallon

Can Ireland salvage a play-off spot by beating Moldova and Wales over the next five days?

“It is a difficult but possible. We were at our best when we had to win. Look at the examples, back in 2009 under Giovanni Trapattoni when we had to beat France in Paris. We hadn’t played like that before. By having to win, it eliminates the fear. When we went a goal ahead early on against Serbia in the first game of the campaign, the team had something to lose. People say a point away from home is good but only when you deserve to lose. If we go a goal up against Wales, there’s no point sitting back. That we have to win should help the players. It’s psychological stuff.”

Does playing in Cardiff next Monday give Wales the upper hand?

“This away from home idea is a total myth. At home, the supporters only get behind the team when they’re winning. They actually turn on the team when they’re losing. I hear this talk of facing a hostile crowd but they can’t affect what happens on the pitch. All they do is make noise, they can’t stop players passing the ball. The goals are the same size. As the away team, we can turn that to our advantage. We need the moral courage to go for the win. The manager is responsible for everything. When they get asked ‘did you tell players to sit back?’ they always reply ‘no’ but the bigger question is did they tell them not to sit back? The manager has to release that fear.

“Under Matt Busby at Manchester United, he didn’t mind us chasing the second goal whereas Leeds United manager Don Revie would kill us afterwards if we had done it and still won.”

How much of a boost is it to Ireland that Gareth Bale will miss their two games through injury?

“I think it’s bound to give Ireland a lift. In football you are looking for all sorts of advantages. Bale, without question, is their best player, so it has to be an advantage. As long as you don’t make too much of it. You still have to go and win it.

“I don’t think Bale is a world-class player. He is a terrific player in what he does and he can be dynamic. But he is not a footballer in terms of linking it up. In the last match against us in Dublin, Bale had one shot and didn’t do that much.

“I’m not running him down because he’s a terrific player but he wouldn’t be in the same class as the former Wales player John Charles. Not many would.

“Wales are no great shakes and they’re missing their best player. If Wales were that good, they’d be four points ahead of us. We had a great chance of sticking it to Wales and Austria at home.

“It is a difficult task in Cardiff but this is a similar situation to when we looked down and out after drawing with Scotland at home in the last campaign.

“We needed to beat Germany and did it.

“We’re missing Jonathan Walters but he wasn’t playing for some of our best performances at the Euros. Seamus Coleman is a loss but isn’t a match-winner.”

How have you assessed Ireland’s campaign so far?

“We didn’t play well enough in our home games against Wales, Austria, or Serbia.

“I had heard before our first game in Belgrade last year that this was a fortress but we should have beaten them. We ended up going behind 2-1, which could have went to 3-1, and we only started playing from then on. Serbia were hopeless at the back. When we reflect, a draw wasn’t a great result.”

You’re a big fan of Wes Hoolahan, should he start in both games despite his age?

“I don’t see why Hoolahan can’t play two matches in four days. So what? These are fit lads. Hoolahan is as fit now as he’s ever been. We didn’t picking him anyway when he was younger. If he gets tired after 60 minutes, then take him off. Wes is not world-class but he’s the best of what we have. We don’t have a Luka Modric.

“To say Wes can’t play away from home is a myth. Italy had a weakened team as we got them after they’d qualified from the group but that was our best display at the Euros.

“Robbie Brady played well and so did Hoolahan when he came on. It is no coincidence our winning goal came from that pair.

“The main tactic is picking the right players in the correct positions.”

What about the quality of opposition in the group?

“There’s much of a muchness between all the teams because there’s no great side in our group.

“We’ve seen them all. I keep hearing about the opposition but we’re as good as any of them. Why should we be underdogs in any of these games?

“Wales have to go to Georgia on Friday but they’re not that good of a team at all.”

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