Republic of Ireland defenders Alex Pearce and Stephen Ward both admitted that they were looking forward to a 'fresh start' under new manager Martin O'Neill.
The duo were left out of recent squads by O'Neill's predecessor Giovanni Trapattoni, but both were visibly delighted when speaking to the press after Tuesday's training session. “No matter how many caps you’ve got, I think it’s a clean slate and everyone is trying to come in and do the best they can from the word go,” Pearce said.
When he was unveiled on Saturday the new Ireland manager said “If anybody is willing to be of value to the Republic of Ireland setup here, I would certainly have an open mind.”
O’Neill’s words have given hope for the players looking to cement a permanent place in the squad such as Alex Pearce, who is impressing at the early stages of the season in Reading’s push for promotion to the Premier League.
There is an opportunity for the likes of Andy Reid and Stephen Ireland to regain places within the Irish ranks as well as more recent fallouts such as Stephen Ward, who recently lost his tenure after being dropped as Trapattoni’s first-choice left-back at Euro 2012.
“It’s time to move on now, and it’s a fresh start and a new era for everyone,” said Ward.
Roy Keane was one of the first at the training ground this morning and took a front seat in charge of the training session, actively getting involved with the players for the first time.
Asked about what it was like working with Roy Keane, Stephen Ward spoke of his admiration for the Corkman. "It’s a little bit surreal sometimes," Ward said. "You grow up watching him and he’s one of the greatest players to play for Ireland."
With regard to the style of football Ireland are going to be playing under its new management, O’Neill did not give too much away but insisted that he will try to play with an attractive style of football when possible, but maintained that three points will always be the main goal.
"If you have the calibre of player in your midst that’s able to excite people, go past players and is a proper match winner then of course let him go and play," O'Neill said. "If you haven’t those players available to you at the time then you have to have an approach to the game.
"You have to treat the game and the players accordingly and don’t ask the players to do something that they’re incapable of doing."
The overriding aura exuding from the Irish camp at this early stage is an eagerness and excitement to impress the new boss, and see how the team fares in the upcoming friendlies against Latvia and Poland.
Robbie Brady and Anthony Pilkington will not feature in the squad as they are not fully fit, although both players have expressed their desire to introduce themselves to the new coaching staff and will jet over from England to attend the game on Friday.
The Republic of Ireland take on Latvia on November 15, before heading to Poznan to face Poland on November 19.