Irish eyes set to smile on Blues pair

BLUES keeper Shane Supple has backed Alan Lee to reclaim his Republic of Ireland place and Owen Garvan to jump straight into senior international football, while looking to make his own mark for his country.

By Derek Davis

BLUES keeper Shane Supple has backed Alan Lee to reclaim his Republic of Ireland place and Owen Garvan to jump straight into senior international football, while looking to make his own mark for his country.

The new Irish manager Steve Staunton, who is working with former Town boss Sir Bobby Robson, picks his first squad on Thursday in readiness for a friendly against Sweden on March 1 and the Blues' duo have an excellent chance of being involved, according to Supple.

He said: “If Alan Lee keeps going the way he is, I can see him getting a regular place back in the Irish set-up.


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“There is only really Robbie Keane. Damien Duff can play up there but Alan is playing regular and scoring.

“Stephen Elliott and Daryl Murphy at Sunderland are contenders. while Kevin Doyle has been scoring for Reading, but Alan has to have a great chance.

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“Owen has every chance of jumping straight into the senior side. With so many senior players retiring, he has a great opportunity of taking one of those spaces available.

“He has been doing fantastically well for Ipswich and he could cope, no problem.”

The 18-year-old Irish keeper has claimed the No.1 jersey at Ipswich and is now looking to make the breakthrough into the emerald green shirt of Ireland.

Supple said: “We have seen with Lewis (Price) what can happen when you are playing regular for your club.

“If I'm playing first-team football there is a chance that I could get a call-up in March but we will see.

“I have not played for my country for the past two years because, even when selected, I have not been able to play but, perhaps, that will change at Under-21 level.

“With Alan playing so well, and Owen too, then the Irish scouts are bound to be watching Ipswich so, hopefully, I can catch the eye.”

Supple has to see off challenges from the likes of Barry Roche, Colin Doyle, and Ed Randolph for the Under-21 spot but has his sights set even higher eventually.

Newcastle United keeper Shay Given is the current Irish No. 1 and, at a touch over six-foot himself, is someone Supple admires.

He said: “Shay is a wonderful goalkeeper. He is very consistent and has a good few years left in him. I look up to Shay, and model myself on him, but I would like the opportunity to be working with him in the Ireland set-up and, you never know, in a few years to come I may get the chance to try and challenge for his place.”

With Supple preferred to Price on Saturday, and expected to stay in possession tonight in the Championship match at Crewe, the 18-year-old appears to have won the battle for the No.1 position at Town - for now at least.

Supple said: “It gave me a great lift when the gaffer put me back in the side on Saturday.

“I was devastated to miss the derby match at Norwich but I was delighted when I got my place back.

“At the moment, I feel I'm No. 1 and it is my shirt for the time being. It is now up to me to keep hold of it, with a dozen or so games to go until the end of the season.”

Despite the rivalry, Supple and Price remain good friends and Supple doesn't expect that to change.

He said: “Lewis wished me well before the game against Burnley. We have had a chat about the whole thing but there have been no harsh words at all. We both get on with our jobs. Lewis will be working hard to get back in and I will be working hard to keep him out.”

Supple will be searching for his fourth clean sheet of the season tonight but is not taking bottom club Crewe lightly.

He added: “Confidence is high and we go there with nothing to fear. Even so, Crewe maybe bottom of the league but we know they are a good footballing team, and got a good draw with Wolves on Saturday, so will be dangerous.”

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