Sunderland’s James McClean and Keiren Westwood must get international starts – Charlie Hurley

James McClean
James McClean
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JAMES McClean and Keiren Westwood should be fast-tracked into the Republic side in the wake of the country’s Euro 2012 failure, says Sunderland and Ireland legend Charlie Hurley.

The man voted Player of the Century by Sunderland fans in the 1970s, and who was also hugely proud to represent the Republic, has watched in dismay as the Irish exited the tournament without a single point.

Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad lost to Croatia, Spain and Italy on the back of a string of below-par performances which saw them concede nine goals and score just one.

And Hurley, who earned 40 caps between 1957-69, says that now is the time for a changing of the guard and the moment for younger players like Black Cats’ McClean and Westwood to be given their chance.

He told the Echo: “I’d love to see young James in the team right now and as for Keiren Westwood, he’s a keeper approaching his peak years.

“Shay Given has been a fabulous servant for his country over the years and doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone but he didn’t have a great tournament and at 36 he’s not getting any younger.

“Goalkeepers can go on for longer of course and maybe Shay will but you wonder whether he should.

“When you plan for the future, you don’t just plan for the next two or the three years you plan for the next six or seven and I think that is what the Republic has to do now.

“I was a young player at Sunderland coming into a side when there was a changing of the guard and I’ve also experienced it from the other side when I was one of the older players and things were changing again – it’s the toughest time of all for a squad and for a manager to handle.

“But you have to go through the process of creating a new team and there’s never a better time to do it than when you’ve experienced a disappointment like the Republic have right now – it’s a time for being honest and looking at ways to rebuild.”

Trapattoni has explained his lack of use of the Sunderland winger in the Euros - McClean was given only a 14 minute substitute’s appearance, against Spain - by suggesting the 23-year-old was too young and raw to be thrust into the pressure-cooker environment of a major tournament.

But 75-year-old Hurley – two years the Italian manager’s elder – was dismissive of that claim.

“I got my first cap when I was 20 and it was against England and you didn’t get much more pressure for Eire in my day than that!” he said.

“I was marking the great Manchester United striker Tommy Taylor who was a wonderful player but I barely gave him a kick in the game, got loads of good headlines the next day and as a result made a bit of a name for myself on the back of it.

“That was the start of everything for me really and I’m sure that if James is given his chance he won’t let anyone down.

“From what I’ve seen of him, he’s young and hungry and keen as mustard, just like I was at his age.”