110-time Ireland international Kevin Kilbane believes that Ireland must get off to a good start in World Cup qualifying, and need to freshen up the squad to get there
Speaking to the YBIG Football Show, Kilbane said that it was a big step for Ireland to reach their first major tournament in 10 years, but that the team needs to move on from the tournament and look towards the future. "It was a huge achievement to get there, to be in the top 16 in Europe, ahead of some great nations who didn't qualify," Kilbane claimed.
"It's how you move forward from what is seen to be a disastrous campaign," he continued. "It hasn't really if you look at it from the two-year period as a whole. Qualification for a major tournament was the paramount expectancy really, and obviously we qualified, but now we've got to move on from there."
He continued: "How do we qualify for the World Cup? The players haven't become bad players overnight, the manager hasn't become a bad manager overnight."
Despite his defence of the Ireland manager, Kilbane maintains that the Irish squad needs to be given a 'fresh impetus' by bringing in new players.
"It's imperative that we get off to a good start, and we need to really now start to integrate the younger players, to freshen everything up, to give a fresh impetus to the squad.
"I don't think he needs to make wholesale changes to the squad," added Kilbane. "I think throughout the squad, maybe three or four changes might be enough.
The 35-year-old made his Irish debut back in 1997 against Iceland, and made 110 international appearances in 14 years with the Boys in Green and he has high hopes for the next crop of youngsters, singling some of them out as possible future Irish stars.
"The likes of Seamus Coleman, James McCarthy, James McClean, all these lads are probably knocking on the door for a bit too long now, and I think they deserve a chance," he said.
"There's obviously Anthony Pilkington at Norwich who has been impressing, he's only 23 or 24. There's [David] Meyler up at Sunderland, who has had a bit of an injury spell, he's another excellent footballer, a really strong midfield player. So we do have players coming through."
Kilbane also commented on the difficulty faced by Irish players attempting to make the breakthrough at their clubs, citing new Bristol City signing Greg Cunningham as an example of stifled talent.
"We have talented players, it's just that they've not had the opportunities at club level," he said.
"Greg Cunningham is an excellent player, but he was at Man City, the wealthiest club in the world. How was he going to get the chance to play and progress?
"We do have the players there, it's just about getting game time at club level so you can progress onto the international scene."
The veteran utility player recently signed contract with Coventry City and is confident that he is fit enough to contribute to the team.
"I still feel fit enough and I think I've proved that this week since I've been there," said Kilbane.
"I feel very, very good physically, so hopefully I can see that through for this season, and really show my worth and help out where necessary," he concluded.