Having the backing of my international manager gives me confidence: Ireland's John Egan
JOHN Egan says he’s playing with a spring his step after receiving warm backing from international manager Stephen Kenny – and the Sheffield United man still hasn’t given up on Ireland making a late push for 2022 World Cup qualification.
As soon as Kenny assumed the senior reins he earmarked the 29-year-old central defender as a key player in what he’s trying to build.
Egan has always been adept at bringing the ball out of defence as well as holding his own against the top strikers in the English Premier League despite his club's demotion this season.
The problem for Egan and Kenny has been getting the Cork man on the field on a regular basis.
Speaking ahead of the upcoming friendlies against Andorra (Thursday) and Hungary (Tuesday), Egan said: "I speak to the manager quite a bit before camps and I've got a really good relationship with him. I know what he expects from me on and off the pitch.
"It's good to feel that you have got the backing of your manager. It's up to me to try to perform at a high level, get into the team and then stay in the team.
“When you have the belief and backing of the manager then there's a bit more of a spring in your step.
"It's unfortunate that I have not been able to play many games lately.”
Egan suffered a foot injury that sidelined him for the ill-fated World Cup qualifier defeats to Serbia and Luxembourg back in March that has virtually extinguished Ireland’s hopes of reaching the Qatar finals.
Being a COVID close contact and a bout of concussion at the back end of 2020 also robbed him of more international appearances.
“I played the Slovakia game [Euro 2020 semi-final play-off] and then I was a close contact so it was really hard to miss out on games even though I didn't have Covid,” Egan said.
“I felt it was just pointless missing out on two caps.
"Then in the following month against England I got concussed. Then the last time [World Cup qualifiers], I was injured so I've been unlucky in that sense with Ireland.
"I’ve not missed too many club games but with Ireland I seemed to have missed a good few. It's horrible when you're sitting at home watching the games and wishing that you could be out there and being with the lads in the squad.
“But I’m not one for looking back too much, wishing I had this amount of caps, thinking I should have done this and that. I just want to be successful and try to do something with Ireland in the coming times.
“Then I can look back when you’ve made and played in big tournaments. That’s the aim for everybody, to try to play in big tournament for Ireland.”
Still winless after 11 games under Kenny, Egan is hoping that Ireland can finally get that elusive victory against European minnows Andorra on Thursday night in Barcelona.
"You could see the way that the manager wants to play. The lads were really taking to it and there have been some really good performances without the results.
"At the end of the day it's a results business. We know that. We want to win games, we want to give the country a team that they are proud to support and proud to watch."
Ireland resume their faltering World Cup qualifying campaign against Portugal (a), Azerbaijan (h) and Serbia (h) in early September and will definitely need to take seven points out of nine to stand any chance of forging their way back into contention.
"Obviously, it was not far from the start that we wanted. But we still only two games in and anything can happen,” said Egan.
“We're definite outsiders now but all we can do is to look to the next game and try to get a result.
“If you get a bit of momentum, you never know. For me, it's all about the next game."