Irish fans are the best in the world – and now it’s official. That’s because Stoke and Burnley’s finest, Jon Walters, has just confirmed it.
In an exclusive interview with Paddy Power News, the 54-cap Ireland international hailed supporters ahead of Thursday’s crunch clash with Switzerland – and backed them to inspire the nation to qualify for Euro 2020.
Big Mick’s side have a five-point lead at the top of Group D ahead of Thursday’s qualifier at the Aviva – and home comforts are on the horizon.
Book a place and they will go straight into Group E and that means they will have the luxury of playing two group games in Dublin. Walters believes that could make all the difference as there is not a team on the planet who will relish a trip to face the Irish on home soil.
“Results and statistics don’t lie – home games are huge compared to away games for whatever reason,” he told Paddy Power. “Wherever you play, from international games to the Premier League, it’s the same thing. To get that home support and have that familiarity of being at home can really help.
The Irish fans are the best you can ever come across.
“They travel in huge numbers and wherever they go there’s no trouble. They just drink all day and they have a great time.
“At home, not so much recently but before and even when I was playing, we needed to give them a reason to produce an atmosphere in the stadium.
“That’s down to the players to give them the edge because we’ve sometimes been known as a defensive team at home.
“They’re always behind you and once they’re in voice it is unbelievable. It’s one of the best atmospheres you can play in anywhere in the world.”
McCarthy has selection problems after Crystal Palace’s James McCarthy became the latest player to pull out injured. Sean Maguire, Matt Doherty and Keiren Westwood are also on a list of players who are crocked.
Switzerland have their own issues too with calf-bulging Xherdan Shaqiri ruled out.
“I’m hopeful because I know what it means if we do win, how far that would put us ahead of Switzerland,” Walters added.
“I know they’ve got games in hand and other teams have as well but the way the group has started, it is more important to have points on board because then you can manage the rest of the games.
“Shaqiri is ruled out which I think is very big so I think it’s a good chance to get all three points, especially at home and the atmosphere that can be created there. We’re flying high in the group and we’re confident.”