It’s a welcome sign of honesty, but also a worrying sign of how deep-rooted a problem is, when a footballer is asked after a defeat what his side need to improve on and the answer is: “Everything.”
athan Collins had a disappointing end to his first season of Premier League football as his Burnley side were relegated, so it summed up his season that his competitive debut for Ireland also ended on a low note in Saturday’s defeat to Armenia in Yerevan.
He was one of the better performers from a sub-par Irish central defence, with signs of fatigue and sloppiness from the more senior men beside the debutant (Shane Duffy and John Egan), so should changes be made for Wednesday’s tussle with Ukraine, Collins is more likely to keep his place.
He said he expects a response to the poor fare in Yerevan and accepts a rise in standards in every department is needed to make sure Ukraine are not afforded the gifts presented to Armenia.
“Overall it wasn’t good enough. We can increase everything, everything could have been better, but on another day one of those goals goes in and we are having a different conversation,” Collins said.
“It’s easy to say it now, ‘oh, get the ball wide and move it’ but in the game it’s hard.
“They are on such a high and their fans are giving them so much. But as a team, I think maybe if we moved it quicker and got it out wide and got better crosses in and a bit more quality with that final bit of end product.
“But in saying that we had chances early in the first half and from set-pieces.
“There is a lot more than any one thing but there is going to be a reaction and this group has a reaction in them and that’s the main thing.
“I don’t know if it will affect confidence because we know what we can do. It could nearly be good for us as it will add fuel to the fire,” he added.
“We need a reaction and we have said it in there. Whether we show it on Wednesday, we know we need one.
“There is a game on Wednesday, a quick turnaround, so we are lucky as if it was over now we would be kicking ourselves. It is a chance to redeem ourselves, a chance to go again.”
Looking ahead to the Ukraine encounter on Wednesday cannot be done in isolation from a study of the Armenia clash, as their winner was a carbon copy of the goals which have driven a stake into the heart of Stephen Kenny’s Ireland side so often.
Emin Mahmudov for Azerbaijan, Gerson Rodrigues for Luxembourg, Mohammed Muntari for Qatar and now Eduard Spertsyan for Armenia. None of them are household names in their own country, let alone big names on the world stage, but all were capable of hurting Ireland from distance, catching out a tired defence and an exposed keeper.
Why was the Krasnodar player not closed down before he could line up his shot?
“You could say put more pressure on him, but he’s 25 yards out and he puts it off the post and in. At times you have to put your hand up and say, listen, it’s a fair effort. It’s one of them,” Collins said.
“When it happens you put your hand up but I don’t think we gave them a lot else in the game, so it is what it is.
“They tried it a good few times. He put it in an area where I don’t think any keeper in the world is saving it.”
Collins came into the camp with a noise in the background about his club status: he’s only one year into a long-term contract with Burnley but financial pressures from their relegation to the Championship could lead to a fire sale in the summer.
They took the cash from Newcastle United for Chris Wood, so Burnley clearly are a selling club if the price is right – and they need the money.
Collins, however, batted away questions about his club status and said his focus is on staying in the Ireland team.
“I’ve said that I don’t want to talk about that around the international football. We have four games, or three games now, and that is what is on my mind,” he said.
“We [Burnley] gave such a good fight and for that to happen in the last game of the season is not nice. It took a lot out of us. It is hard to take. But we know where we are and we need to bounce back as a club.
“I think I needed this camp. I had a week away and club football was on my mind constantly, so I needed this.
“The lads have been good to me, they have helped me out and I needed to just play football, take my mind off club football and concentrate on this. It has been good for me.
“I just have to play my game. I enjoy my football and I love playing for Ireland. I can’t ask for any more. It’s the highest of the high.
“I just want to keep playing football and see what happens. It’s good that there’s competition.
“It improves me and improves us all and makes us want to play better.”