Republic of Ireland player James McClean has claimed that the Irish media "get a kick out" of the struggles of Stephen Kenny's side.
Speaking as Ireland prepared for Tuesday night's World Cup qualifier against Serbia having taken just a single point from their opening four fixtures, the Derry man took a swipe at the media amid suggestions that manager Stephen Kenny's fledgling reign could be over if his team fails to beat the Group A leaders in Dublin.
Asked about the effect of a difficult few days on the young players in Kenny's squad, he said: "We have to just rally around them and tell them just to pay no attention because funnily enough, the media in Ireland is just as bad, if not worse, than the media in England. They kind of get a kick out of us not doing well.
"It's a shame, really, but as senior players, we have been here a long time, we know how it works and the young players need to learn, so we just have to tell them, 'you know what, it's part and parcel of football, pay no attention'.
"You've got young players out and I don’t want to use it as a cop-out but these lads, this is their first time playing international football, this is a manager in his first time in international football.
"We are going a different path to what Ireland teams have produced in years in terms of style of football.
"Not even that, you take into consideration the whole Covid thing, this is the first time these young lads are playing in front of crowds, and that spurs you on alone, so obviously I’d ask for patience with him.
"Football, it’s cut-throat, the media’s harsh and I ask for a bit of patience. But when you’re not winning games, it falls on deaf ears and I can understand that."
McClean did say that the side needed to start winning games again if they are to avoid the criticism that has come their way in recent days.
"It's always difficult when you're not winning games. I don't want to use a cop-out and say it's a transition period because I think that's easy to cling on to. We need to start winning games.
"Look, you can say we have young players coming through and what not. Look, we're here now, we need to stand up, every single one of us, and start being counted, and that comes by winning games.
"We have got another chance to do that on Tuesday and we have to just start winning games, it's as simple as that."
McClean, 32, is a veteran of Ireland’s Euro 2012 and Euro 2016 finals campaigns under Giovanni Trapattoni and Martin O’Neill respectively and insists Kenny’s plight is not new, with O’Neill having gone through something similar after a 5-1 play-off defeat by Denmark in Dublin which ended their hopes of a trip to the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia.
He said: "I go back to Martin O’Neill. That World Cup campaign was a fantastic campaign until the very last game and then the daggers, the knives, were out after the 5-1.
"I remember at the time thinking, 'This is madness, this is astonishing, actually, the reaction’ considering the group we were in and how close we came.
"After Wales, we were brilliant, we were unbelievable, nobody could speak highly enough of us. But after Denmark, it was a complete over-the-top reaction and I think that’s always going to be the case.
"We’re going through a difficult period at the minute, but reactions – even from people who were supportive at the start – have completely flipped and it’s just gone completely the other way.
"If we win Tuesday night and put a run of wins together, the same people with the knives out now will be the biggest supporters again. Football’s fickle and that’s the way it is."
Kenny’s brave new world has seen a series of young players thrust into the limelight – 19-year-olds Gavin Bazunu and Troy Parrott, Adam Idah, 20, 21-year-old Aaron Connolly and Jayson Molumby, 22, all started against Azerbaijan – and McClean admits they have perhaps not been nursed through in the same way he was by the likes of Shay Given, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane.
He said: "I was quite fortunate. When we came in as young players, we came into the great squad of… men. That’s what it was, a squad full of men who were absolutely fantastic in helping us.
"Now we have a bigger role as senior players to help the young players coming through, and maybe so far we haven’t done that."
Follow the Republic of Ireland v Serbia via our live blog on RTÉ.ie/sport and the RTÉ News app, watch live on RTÉ2 and the RTÉ Player or listen to radio commentary on RTÉ 2fm's Game On.
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