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[00:00:00]

Missing this and that didn't materialize, I think both poorly themselves probably looked at each other and kind of thought, what next?

[00:00:07]

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[00:00:45]

A seat on the net. They're very happy to welcome former Republic of Ireland International Stephen Ward to the show, even Stephen. Good evening. How are you doing? Yeah, very well. So you're on the move, Ipswitch. Yeah, yeah, on the move, yeah, yeah, I've seen that, I think two weeks ago, so, yeah, I really enjoyed it so far of the really big club, you know, manager with a lot of experience and not a lot of ambition to get promoted this year.

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So, yeah, I've been really impressive.

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When did the move come about? How did it come about? You were obviously with Stoke last year and I no injuries play that part as well last year. So give us the story of how Ipswich came on the cards for you.

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Well, I suppose this I suppose in football terms at the minutes that, you know, the game and every club is is dealing with the sort of pandemic that's out there. So obviously a lot of clubs have financial difficulties and so forth. So, you know, I don't want to hear it stock. And I knew there was going to be obviously a very slim chance of staying home, especially with the size of the squad and how things have gone.

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So so I knew I'd be moving on and. Yeah, just just wait to see what was there that I spoke to a few clubs and obviously had the confidence to come down and have a look. So, you know, obviously delighted to still be playing and prolonging my career. And I still have the hunger in me. So I wanted it to be a club that had ambition and something that excited me and went down to to meet the manager and have a look around the club trying to the last couple of days and then went from there.

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But I'm really enjoying it so far. And looking forward to the season ahead.

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Is that tantamount to going on trial effectively those few days training? Is that what it feels like? I know, to be honest, I spoke to the manager beforehand and he said to me, listen to in my situation, I live in Birmingham and, you know, it's obviously it's not ideal how far away it is. So he wanted to make sure that I knew it was right for myself. Obviously, he wanted me to come in and have a look at Winogrand Stadium, meet the staff, you know, meet the players.

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To be honest, we didn't do a lot in training. So it was essentially a trial. It was more you know, I thought it was a nice way to do it because, you know, there will be times I have to stay away from my family again. So I did need to see the place and see the sort of environment that was going into because, you know, it wasn't a like decision to have to stay away from your family again for a couple of nights a week.

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So, you know, gave me the chance rather than just sign and going down and not knowing what's ahead of me, I got the chance to go down, meet him, hear what he was he had planned for the season. And, you know, after after a day or so, we were under negotiation.

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And I was like just like Paul Lambert, obviously, as the manager for listeners who weren't aware. So what is it you're looking to hear from Lambert when you're making the decision to go down to any one and as you said, spend a couple of nights away from your family for an entire season?

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Well, listen, you know, the sort of size of the club spoke for itself. And obviously the manager's reputation has been some really big clubs in the Premier League. So, you know, it was a big pull. Let me go down there in the first place. You know, when I got in front of them, you know, everything was positive. You know what what role they see me playing around the squad, you know, and in the club itself.

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And just the way you wanted to play the way you obviously is desperate for the club to get promoted. And so I checked every box, really. So, you know, I think, you know, I gave gave them my opinion of what I wanted to do and what I was looking to do in my career. And I think we both score. We're happy with what each other said and just went from there. So it was it was quite an easy transition, really.

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And I think sometimes you can speak to a manager as much as you want them on the phone. But when he gets in front and starts talking football tactics and was planned for the season, is that it makes it a lot easier.

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OK, so he's like saying you, Stephen, I want you to play the number 10 like Messi you've done at the track back. Everything goes through you. That's how I see things this year.

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And I don't think that was the case. But no, listen, I think it's quite a young squad from last year that a quite young squad is in desperate and, you know, really look at the being experienced lads in to sort of have a better mix. I think, you know, obviously teams in the moment with the financial situation are obviously, you know, relying on a lot of players that have come through the youth system. And I think that's a good season.

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Last year, they just maybe fell a bit short and I think that's what he's been looking for. So it was obviously delighted when he called the me. And like I said, the first couple of weeks been really good and I've really enjoyed it.

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What do you think? Experience cancer in a dressing room when the cut and thrust of professional football, you've got a lot of young players. What is it that experience brings to that atmosphere, do you feel? Well, I think most players have sort of seen the good and the bad side of the game, you know, ups, the promotions of relegations, and some of these young guys haven't experienced that when things are going great. It's obviously it's easier for everyone.

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But I think especially when when the results don't go for you or, you know, you have a couple of bad games, I think sometimes sort of an old and all had just just pulling it to the side or, you know, relating the experience that you've had before can help. And, you know, that's one thing that I hope I can bring to the squad as well as I was playing on the pitch with the last as well.

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Did you consider retirement at the end of last season? I mean, the seasons merged together into one point thirty five. Has the body feeling.

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Yes, for I've just to tell you, I feel great for both of you that.

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Yeah, no, I feel ground. I feel as I have I have to be honest, I've seen issues before with injuries and operations earlier on in my career. And, you know, at this stage of career, sometimes it's about managing yourself and knowing your load and making sure you know, you know how to be in the best shape and etc.. And I think that comes the experience of, you know, last season I obviously I had a bit of a calf injury.

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But other than that, I think I was I was fit most of the season in terms of training every day and feeling good. And, yeah, I'm feeling fit and as good as ever. And looking forward to the season ahead.

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It would be very easy. Thirty four. Thirty five to say, well, look, I've been in the Premier League for X number of years, championship club last year going not quite for me. You know, I'm going to go out now and leave it at that. You're obviously still very, very hungry. There is obviously still a big desire to train every day and keep playing professional football. It's a gesture in love with the game and as competitive as ever.

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Yeah. And I think, you know, when I was a young lad and there was obviously an older older pros around the dressing room, that advice to me was always enjoy the game and play as long as you can. You know, you are a long time retired. I know it's a it's an old cliche, but, you know, I'd like to play as long as I can, as long as the body holds up and I still feel fit and I still have that enjoyment and love for the game.

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And, you know, there's nothing better for me still getting up every morning, going in to try and actually enjoy it probably as much now as I did. And I was younger and obviously being sort of an elder statesman, as they say, and a bit more experience, I enjoy going in and personal knowledge to the younger lads. It's it's really kept my appetite going. And, you know, I'm really enjoying it.

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I guess maybe in some ways at a certain age, the pressure is off. You know, you've achieved big things in your career. It can you're not necessarily building towards something or worrying about the next move or the next contract. You can just enjoy it for what it is. It's almost compared to those who have to retire younger. It's it's kind of bonus time.

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Yeah, I suppose it is. But I think that's one of the reasons I wanted to sign for Ipswich and a club that had ambitions to get promoted. You know, they've got a great fan base down there who expects this club to be in the championship at least. And, you know, they were obviously disappointed they couldn't come come back up last year. So, you know, there's probably even more pressure this year to have a good season, make sure to get back to the championship.

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So, you know, that's what excited me about it. That's what they get from out with, you know, everything's geared before having geared towards having to push for promotion. And, you know, listen, like I said, you know, you want to keep achieving and you want to achieve things. And if I can do well this year and we can have a successful season, it'll be, you know, another highlight in my career.

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So I will work family situation. Then you'll be a couple of nights each week and kind I get an apartment in Ipswich area, that kind of thing.

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Yeah, yeah. I'll get a property down there and obviously stay down, you know, need to and get back sort of on my days off and obviously the family can come down and stay with me as well. So it's not ideal. But like I said, you know, beggars can't be choosers. It's it's a tough market out there at the minute, especially with everything that's going on and the financial situations of clubs, obviously with no funds. Erm, you know, I think everyone's desperate to get them back in so, so clubs can sort of get back a lot more comfortable than they are now.

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So yeah, this idea would have been a little closer to home. But like I said, you know that the size of the club, the stature of the manager and the ambition the club has, it was sort of a no brainer when it came up.

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We don't hear that you having pot noodle alone on a dark Wednesday night. That has to be avoided.

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Yeah, I'm alright. I'm I'm a decent enough cook, so in that sense.

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OK, good night. Well, listen, congrats on the move. I mean, still playing professional football at thirty five. Still going strong is great. I'm sure you'll be watching the Ireland games over the next couple of months as well. Stephen Kenny. At last as a game you know and well what are you expecting from a Stephen Kenny Irish team.

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Well first it must be like to see he's got the chance. It's a fantastic achievement. Obviously, Stephen gave him my debut when I was up for him as a striker, albeit, you know, we've seen certainly more than that to bring me on. And obviously that was the start of my career. So, you know, I'll be forever grateful for that. And, you know, I think you've got the. I could see the hungry out for the game, you know, I could see wanted to get to a high level and obviously, you know, there's no greater achievement than becoming the senior international manager.

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So, you know, first and foremost, it's a great achievement for him. And it's obviously delighted for him because he played that little, you know, part of my career of giving me my first game. So obviously a new beginning for him and the lads. And it's nothing from you. Look at how the other 21 somebody came in. I think you had a fantastic record there. You know, we got to see some of their games and the way they played.

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And, you know, I think you'll want to bring that up, you know, to transition through to the first thing, whether he likes to play football. From what I've seen once wants to play an attractive style. And you know what I'll be expecting? I'm sure there'll be new faces in the world and the other twenty ones will be better than during his tenure. You know, I think if you mix that with the sort of experience that we are playing, we can we out in the premiership.

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I think there are some some exciting times ahead. And this is obviously done a great job. And I think going into a job like the hardest job to know that you're only two games or two wins away from qualifying for a major tournament is unbelievable. I'm sure Steve will be very much appreciative for that. And hopefully we can go and do the business and qualify for the euros next year.

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And needless to say, there's a whole spectrum of opinion on what we can expect from Stephen Kenny team and what's possible for him to do. Like I'd be curious to ask you take the Bulgaria Finland Games coming up. First of all, I think he'll have to proper training sessions with the team before flying out to the game against Bulgaria like it's nothing, you know, and we've had a certain style for however many years. And the hope is Stephen is trying to implement maybe a more footballing style that's going to take time.

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In your experience, how long will that take to get a team playing in a way they're not used to and expressing themselves maybe in a way that we haven't for a while? Probably forever, really. I mean, I would think it's a quicker thing to say, well, look, we're going to play defensive flatback five, flatback four and kick the ball long and be hard to beat. I think that's an easier probably thing to get to than a team that's going to express itself and patterns of play and and all the intricacies that we're hoping for in terms of how long that might take.

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It's gonna take more than two training sessions for a start.

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Yeah, this is not ideal. I think Stephen said it himself in his press conference. I think it's not ideal. He's not going to have as much time as maybe want to, but that tends to be the case in international football anyway. You know, the turnaround is quite quick. The one thing I will say, listen, I think looking at the squad, I look at a squad of myself today when it came out, you know, we've got a lot of players now playing first thing football in the Premier League.

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And these lads are coming in from sides to play all sorts of football, top quality players. We've had really good seasons, really good careers. And, you know, when you're dealing with that sort of, you know, calibre of player, you know, you're hoping that it won't take as long as maybe you might think. If you look at the lads the way they play at Sheffield tonight, it's know bright and play a certain way and Burnley play a certain way.

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But they're all good footballers. And, you know, it's not ideal. It will take a while. But I think, you know, if you can try to implement as much as he can and use these two games to maybe, you know, like I said, of course, the results are important, but he needs to try to get the lads playing in the way he wants as quick as possible, because the following month are the big games, you know, the massive games or, you know, we can qualify for the European Championships.

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So this is not ideal. But like I said, the calibre of player that we have, you know, the sort of level levels of football at the lads are playing at a club level. You know, you're hoping they can pick it up as quick as possible.

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So to your to your right, then, based on the calibre that could actually be relatively quickly.

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Well, you'd hope so. Yeah. You know, like I said, you know, you look at Sheffield United play, we've got, you know, three large tree lights that are that are in the squad. They're playing at Brighton, obviously play a certain way. Everton play away any other way. You. But all these lights are playing top quality football. You know, there's a reason they're all played in the Premier League because they're good footballers.

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And you'd hope that whatever Stephen implements and those over the first couple of days wants to do in the first two games, you know, you'd hope maybe you would only need to tweak some things here. And then the lads will hopefully enjoy playing that way and hopefully be able to pick it up as quick as possible. Yeah.

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And the last one I like I presume it's all easier said than done as well at international level when you're playing against very good teams, as you have done, like, for instance, we had given with him and Packie Bonner. Coming up, we're going to play that in a couple of days time. And she was pretty to the point that he feels that Ireland could have played more football throughout his career. He felt we were a bit too direct and there was more talent there and we could have played more football with that.

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He wasn't having to go necessarily any of the managers, but that was just his personal feeling that there was more quality there than we realised. What's your view on that?

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Yeah, look, like I said, maybe we could. Maybe we could. I think, you know, maybe we've had this stigma for a while where we sort of played that longer ball game, but I think sometimes when when the team is getting results and doing well and you get in the playoffs and qualifying for tournaments here and there, you know, sometimes, you know, it's difficult to change. And maybe, like I said, this is probably the first time I feel in a good few years, obviously, since Mick came in, that there's been a change of the guard and a real sort of change in, you know, the squad.

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And the players in the squad is a lot younger. I think there's new lads in the squad and maybe this is the best time to try to change the style and how we play. Yeah, maybe we could have. I think those players, maybe, you know, we could have played more. We have we had talented players in the squad. But like I said, the way we played, we were hard to beat. It did get results.

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And sometimes it can be difficult for a manager to go away from that if something's been, you know, something's worked before. You know, I think back to games, you know, against Germany, where we you know, we won the game at home. We threw away. And you think, yeah, listen, we didn't play most attractive football, but maybe if we had to try it out, we would have lost them game. So it's a difficult scenario.

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You know, we have the players to do it. But like I said, sometimes it's difficult when you get results and maybe now with the freshness of the squad and, you know, there seems to be a lot of new faces and a sort of a new breed of player coming through. Maybe this is the perfect time for the manager to try to be an interesting couple of weeks for sure.

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Coming up, very lastly, James McFadden, I notice with Stokes player of the year, you would have seen a lot of his work. I can't say I was watching Stoke every weekend. He obviously was very, very good. Yeah, it's on great, James, listen, you know, we're going to get rich, James works as obsoleted socks off day in, day out for the cause. Whether things are going well for whether he's having a tough time, gives 100 percent every time, every training session.

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And then I think especially towards the second half of the season, what Michael O'Neil Khamenei gave him the freedom to do what he does. And I think he provided a lot of assists, scored a few goals. Yeah. Had a great season. So I was really happy for James because, you know, with the type of character he is, some people probably don't understand them as much as we do in Ireland and as much as the players that have played with him.

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And he's a great fella, a really good lad, unbelievable professional. And yeah, I was really, really happy for him. I gave him a big sticker. We want to you know, there must have been some fixing in the bucket. Exactly. But now listen, I was delighted for him. And like I said, I think everybody would agree on how he works and how good of a team it is.

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Good to hear. Thanks so much for your time. Very best to look at Ipswich. My check in with you maybe halfway through the season. See how it's all good, man. Keep it going. Thanks, Stephen. It's no problem.

[00:18:27]

Take care, Stephen.

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Water football off the ball with paddy power more confident than united before a Europa League. Final responsibility. Suddenly we don't net.