agony | 

John Aldridge reveals his pain watching Ireland’s fall from grace

Liverpool legend John Aldridge was speaking in association with Carlsberg. ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan© ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Sean O'ConorSunday World

Aldridge, who featured in two World Cups under former manager Jack Charlton, says he gets frustrated when the Boys in Green struggle against ‘lesser teams’, with Ireland having suffered defeats to the likes of Armenia and Luxembourg recently under manager Stephen Kenny.

“With all due respect to the players, I find it hard to watch it,” said Aldridge, speaking at the 30th anniversary of Carlsberg’s partnership with Liverpool FC.

“I get really p****d off when we’re getting beaten, but we’ll just wait for something to click for us. I was spoiled with Ireland to a certain degree for many years, so it’s hard.”

“You look at the group that we’ve been drawn in,” added Aldridge, as Ireland face clashes against France, Holland and Greece in the Euro 2024 qualifiers which begin in March.

“Jesus Christ, that's the worst group you could ever get, it’s just horrendous but it is what it is. You have to get on with it, take every game as it comes, and get the experience to go again down the road.”

Aldridge and many of his Ireland teammates were playing top-flight football during the glory years under Charlton. Nowadays however, just a handful feature regularly in the Premier League, and the 64-year-old puts it down to the recent influx of foreign players.

“It’s plain to see, because of the influx of foreign players into the Premier League,” added Aldridge, who won the 1988 First Division title with the Reds.

“The Irish game should benefit, and you should see better quality because of what has happened in England. If you get the opportunity, the continent is the place to go. Liverpool still have a couple of Irish lads, but at all clubs, if the young players don’t show good progression, go and buy somebody from Spain or Germany and put them in front. All fans want instant success. Look at Liverpool, we’ve had a few bad games and everybody saying, ‘buy him, buy him.’ It’s just football, isn’t it.”

Ireland goalkeeper Caoimhín Kelleher is in his fifth senior season at Liverpool, and has made 17 appearances to date. Aldridge is keen to see the Cork man make a name for himself at Anfield, but accepts he may need a move away to achieve his full potential, as he’s currently number two behind Alisson.

“I want to see him at Liverpool the rest of his life,” added Aldridge.

“When Alisson is gone he can progress, but can he waste the next six years? It’s really tough. I want him to stay, but it’s unfair on him to just play the cup games. You can tell he played Gaelic football when he was younger, because on the ball he’s so cool. It’s whatever the lad wants if he really wants to progress and leave, I’m sure Jurgen Klopp wouldn’t stand in his way.”

Aldridge, who scored 63 goals in 104 appearances for the Reds, reflected on Liverpool's poor start to the season, and conceded the league is out of their grasp as they sit in ninth.

“Jurgen has got to find some answers,” said Aldridge.

“Lost confidence and lost belief. After the Napoli defeat, we won the rest of the games in the Champions League. They beat Manchester City and West Ham, but then lose to the two teams in the relegation zone (Leeds and Nottingham Forest. I don’t know, it’s really odd. We have to find the form we found in the last five years to make sure we get top four and stay in the cups.”

John Aldridge this week visited Belfast and Dublin in celebration of Carlsberg’s 30th year in partnership with Liverpool, alongside former Liverpool FC frontman Robbie Fowler. Passionate supporters of the Reds since 1992, Carlsberg teamed up with Aldo and Fowler to surprise a group of unsuspecting fans at a Liverpool FC supporters’ five a side match. To find out how they got on, follow Carlsberg Ireland on Twitter or Instagram.

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