Staunton: Exciting times ahead
By Chris Stanton
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Steve Staunton believes 'exciting times' lie ahead for Republic of Ireland.
Steve Staunton believes exciting times lie ahead for Republic of Ireland as he prepares to hand youngster Shane Long his debut against San Marino on Wednesday.
Reading striker Long will partner Robbie Keane in attack in the Euro 2008 qualifier and Staunton is licking his lips at the prospect of the next generation of Irish talent coming through.
Staunton urged caution too, though, with the former left-back believing it will take another year at least before the national team reap full reward from Long and company.
"He [Long] is a strong boy and good in the air. He's got a bit of presence about him and he's obviously full of confidence, you can see that in training," Staunton told Sky Sports News.
"I think the younger lads have surprised some of the senior lads with their performances in training.
"They've got quality, so it's exciting times but we knew this would happen. Make no bones about it, it's not going to happen overnight. They are young lads and it's going to take probably another 12 months before we see their true potential coming through on a consistent basis but we know the talent's there."
Staunton's side have just four points from their first four matches in qualifying and need a win against wooden spoon probables San Marino to have any hope of appearing at Austria & Switzerland next year.