“At the time we didn’t realise how big an achievement it was,” says Andy Reid of being part of the Ireland U16 team who were crowned European champions in 1998.
“But as time went on it came through to us what a big deal it was. It’s something for every player in that squad to be proud of.
“Only last week I was showing my young lad some of the clips on YouTube. He looks at me with the long hair and says: ‘Was that really you?’ But I am very proud of what we did in Scotland in ‘98.”
At tonight’s SSE Airtricity/Soccer Writers Of Ireland annual awards banquet in Dublin, Reid will be among a large attendance of players from the U16 and U18 squads who did a famous Euro double for Ireland in 1998.
Manager Brian Kerr will also be honoured, along with his assistant, the late Noel O’Reilly.
“You only realise it now, but back then we were being given a really good football education by Brian and Noel,” says Reid, who went to distinguish himself at senior level for his country.
“They educated us on how to be as people, how to act and how to behave, and don’t get me wrong, we didn’t always behave brilliantly, but Brian would just sit us down and say: ‘That’s not the way you go about things’.
“Brian and Noel gave you a real self-belief. It was drummed into us that we could beat these teams.
“In a football sense it was great but on a personal level it was great too. It brought us on from being young boys into men, it helped us mature from boyhood into adulthood, and we were lucky to have that from both of them. They were a big double act, they bounced off each other.”
Reflecting on Ireland’s victory over Italy in the U16 final, Reid says of his team-mates: “Once we went 2-1 up I knew we’d win, I saw it in the faces of the lads we had on the pitch and on the bench.
"We had such a bond: You’d look at your team-mates’ faces in the line-up before a game and you’d think: ‘I am going to go into battle with that lad today and I know he will battle for me’. I knew every player there would stand up and be counted.
“I can think of three or four moments in my career where I felt like that, that I looked at the players around me and felt that way.
“It doesn’t happen that often but it happened with that team in ‘98.”
Tonight’s SSE Airtricity/SWAI ceremony will also reveal the winners of the Personality and Goalkeeper of the year awards.
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