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jack's boys Andy Townsend fears Stephen Kenny's boys will never experience the joy he felt with Ireland


Andy Townsend played under Jack Charlton for Ireland.

Andy Townsend played under Jack Charlton for Ireland.

Andy Townsend played under Jack Charlton for Ireland.

Former Republic of Ireland captain Andy Townsend fears our current crop of international stars will never experience the euphoria he lived through during his time at the top.

Townsend was Ireland captain at the 1994 World Cup finals and played a huge part in the team Jack Charlton led to glories as he put the Ireland team on the football map.

Yet he has admits the current crop of Ireland players may never live through the kind of highs that ensured Big Jack's heroes are forever etched into the nation's hearts.


Jack with Andy Townsend and Maurice Setters

Jack with Andy Townsend and Maurice Setters

Jack with Andy Townsend and Maurice Setters

"I watched the game the other night against Serbia and it is so tough at this moment for Stephen Kenny and all the players," Townsend told the Sunday World.

"I sympathise for them because it feels like things are a million miles away from what we experienced under Jack.

"Football can be great fun, but that's lost when things are not going according to plan and it is tough for Ireland at this moment.

"My hope is that the lads playing now get a chance to experience what we did as a group in Jack's time as Ireland manager because it was very special.

"It's hard to believe that Ireland were ranked at No.6 in the FIFA rankings when we were at the peak of our powers under Big Jack as that seems a long way off now."


Townsend has played a central role in the production of the film 'Finding Jack', which will air on Virgin Media One tonight. A moving portrait of Ireland's greatest soccer manager, it includes the period in his final days as he battled dementia and struggled to identify some of the players he helped to turn into Irish heroes.

Yet Andy prefers to remember the Jack (right) we all knew, as he was keen to insist the image his Ireland team were given was misplaced

"We were always called a long-ball team, but there was a lot more to what Jack did that just whacking the ball long," continues Townsend. "I always thought it was very unfair how people viewed Jack as a tactician.

"Jack had a few days with the players and he had to come up with a way to get the best out of them. It's not easy to get top players to see things from a different angle and get them to adapt to a different style of football quickly, but he was able to do that and do it quickly.

"The main reason why it worked is we all liked him and as a World Cup winner, he had the ultimate respect from everyone in the squad. We were all prepared to do what he said and if you didn't follow his rules, he would find someone that would.

"He was great at was convincing us that even when we were playing against the top nations, we could beat them and that is a rare skill as a manager.

"Not everyone I worked for could do that, but Jack had a fantastic ability to make us believe that if we follow his way, we could be capable of something very special."

Amid the endless tales that are associated with the Charlton era, Townsend picks out one memory that shines brightly to sum up the 'alternative' rules the squad followed.

"He allowed us to have freedom to do as we wish and that could never happen now," added Townsend.

"In this era, there is always someone around a corner with a camera phone ready to catch someone off-guard and it would be in the papers the next day.

"This is a very different time, but Jack's policy was to trust us to enjoy ourselves and then be ready to play when we needed to be.

"My favourite memory with Jack may be the night before the 1990 World Cup quarter-final against Italy in Rome.

"At about 10pm, he called a team meeting. We all came downstairs wondering what he was going to talk about because this was very unlike him.

"In the end, it was no team meeting, but he had a Guinness barrel brought in from somewhere and we all had a couple of pints before we went to bed.

"It broke the tension in an instant and it was wonderful management from Jack.

"His mentality was instead of worrying about what it going to happen tomorrow, let's relax and enjoy the moment.

"It also killed attempts from Italian taxi drivers to keep us awake all night. They were beeping their horns thinking they would make our lives a misery, but a couple of pints of Guinness sent us all off to sleep and it didn't matter how loud the horns were! That was Jack."

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