Jason Knight has admitted the Republic of Ireland’s new generation must develop a ruthless streak if they are to fulfil their potential.
A difficult Euro 2024 Group B campaign drew to its seemingly inevitable conclusion on Saturday evening when a 1-0 defeat by the Netherlands in Amsterdam sent the Dutch through to next summer’s finals in Germany and Ireland home to lick their wounds.
Stephen Kenny’s men knew in advance of the game at the Johan Cruyff Arena that even the safety net of a play-off place via the Nations League had evaporated, and they were left to reflect upon home and away defeats by France, the Netherlands and Greece and a return of just six points at Gibraltar’s expense to show for their efforts.
Asked what lessons they had learned, Bristol City midfielder Knight said: “It’s fresh, but playing against Holland and France is about having a clinical edge.
“That’s been a large part of all the games we’ve been equal in: they’ve taken their chances and we haven’t. We defended well in large of parts of all the games. Looking back briefly off the top of my head, we lacked a bit of creative spark and those goals when we needed to capitalise.
“The confidence is good. We’re playing some good attractive football at times. We’ve fallen on the wrong side of results against good teams. France and Netherlands aren’t minnows of world football.
“There’s confidence within the group and definitely confidence we’ll turn it around.”
Knight, 22, is one of the flag-bearers for Kenny’s drastically overhauled squad which has seen the manager promote from the Under-21 ranks and promote a front-foot approach.
His efforts have met with limited success – Ireland have won just six of the 29 competitive games they have played under his charge, and that bottom line is perhaps the most potent weapon in the armoury of those calling for change.
Kenny is out of contract after Tuesday night’s friendly against New Zealand at the Aviva Stadium and his future will be decided at a meeting of the Football Association of Ireland’s board on November 28 when members consider a review of the campaign.
Whatever the outside noise, the 52-year-old’s his players remain steadfastly behind him and Knight reiterated that message when asked about the future.
He said: “Well, my view is that the manager is still here and we’re treating it as so. The manager has been great to me and the players. We want to be winning more games for him, but we’ll see what happens.”
Defeat in Amsterdam came courtesy of Wout Weghorst’s 12th-minute strike, although the game was not as close as the scoreline suggested and but for some less than effective finishing and the efforts of Republic keeper Gavin Bazunu, Ronald Koeman’s men could have had qualification tied up long before the final whistle.
Knight said: “We wanted a good performance and result, which ultimately we didn’t do. There were good parts to it. We just lacked a bit of creativity and cutting edge up top.
“There’s no doubt they’re a good team, but we can certainly be better in all aspects of our game, especially creating and scoring goals.”