Reid's boys aim to stay streets ahead

They are known as 'lampers'. Full of fun and tricks. Jason Burt talks to a Spurs artist bringing Ireland style
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The Independent Football

Andy Reid breaks into a broad smile when asked to explain what "lamper" is. "It's about where we come from," the young Dubliner says. "When you play as a kid, with your mates, you are out there trying to learn new tricks and doing little things." It's about the street football of Dublin, the football that is helping to fire the dreams of a nation, propelling them towards another World Cup appearance.

Andy Reid breaks into a broad smile when asked to explain what "lamper" is. "It's about where we come from," the young Dubliner says. "When you play as a kid, with your mates, you are out there trying to learn new tricks and doing little things." It's about the street football of Dublin, the football that is helping to fire the dreams of a nation, propelling them towards another World Cup appearance.

Reid grew up playing "lamper" - trying to score in impromptu, harem-scarem kickabouts using just a "skinny" lamppost as a goal. He was on the streets of Crumlin, running with his brothers. To the south of Dublin, Robbie Keane was doing the same in Tallaght. Swing round and Damien Duff was out there in Ballyboden. Now, together, in the Republic of Ireland's team they are the triumvirate who are sustaining those World Cup hopes. And Reid knows it. "We're the type of lads who grew up playing like that," the left-winger says. "That's how we started. It wasn't a case of playing in teams straight away. I suppose that does stand you in good stead when you go on to the pitch. It's the way it comes across."

It was Ireland's manager Brian Kerr who used "lamper" to explain what the players offer to his team. The excitement. The skill. The attitude. "They have that style," Kerr said. He knows all three well. Indeed he has known them ever since they graduated from lamper to pulling on shirts and shorts and adhering to referees, playing for the Irish Under-15s and Under-16s and the other youth teams Kerr used to manage.

"The thing is," Reid says, "I don't think anyone can turn round to Damien Duff and say, 'You have to do this'. It's a case of giving the ball to him, or Robbie, and saying, 'Go and express yourself'. You can't turn round and tell them, because you are taking away what they have to offer."

And, for Ireland, that is immeasurable. That Reid has emerged as a swashbuckling accomplice is testimony to his ability, and how he has seized his chance. A 13th cap will be gained in Saturday's qualification match against Israel. And the 22-year-old only earned his first 16 months ago.

Reid, despite his warranted confidence, admits he is "a bit surprised" himself at how easily he has settled into the top arena. "I always thought I could raise my game when I played with better players," he says. "I don't think I've looked out of place at all in the games I've played. I can take confidence from that."

His unrelenting faith was forged within a tight family unit that has always had football as its bedrock. His father, Bill, played for St Patrick's Athletic (a club Kerr later managed). Reid's uncle, Victor, played for Shelbourne. All five of Bill's boys played the game.

Reid can also take comfort from the fact that - finally - during the transfer window Tottenham Hotspur secured his signature, along with that of Michael Dawson, from Nottingham Forest, for £8m. It was more than a year since Spurs first registered their interest. Even then it went down to the midnight hour. "I was thinking, 'It's not going to happen'," Reid admits. "And then the phone call finally arrived."

It has helped that there is such a strong Irish connection at Spurs - including Keane and the assistant coach, Chris Hughton - and that the club so clearly wanted him. Reid always had his heart set on them, turning down offers from other Premiership clubs because "Tottenham are renowned for playing football and it would have been pointless for me going to a club that didn't try and do that". The move, he believes, will help him raise the bar on his career. He embraces the challenge.

Ireland, too, are playing good football. Reid stood on the Lansdowne Road terraces to cheer home the 1990 World Cup heroes. But he believes times have changed. "It comes from the Jack Charlton era when everyone knows there was not much football played, mainly because I suppose at the time they maybe didn't have the players," he says.

"I think after a difficult start under Mick McCarthy he got the right players and started playing football the right way. And I think that has continued and grown under Brian Kerr."

There has also been a shift in attitude. "The point that has been made before is that Ireland teams have been happy to go to World Cups and simply be happy to be there," he says. "But that has changed in the last campaign. And I think the mentality has changed now. You don't just go and do that. I mean, look at the last World Cup. It went to penalties against Spain and we could have easily have gone further. So there is no reason why we can't go and do really, really well in the World Cup."

That "point", of course, belonged to Roy Keane, now rehabilitated under Kerr. The manager deserves much credit. "I'm not surprised at all," Reid says of Kerr's approach, and record, which stands at just two defeats in 25 internationals with Ireland rising to a remarkable 12th in the Fifa rankings. "I've worked with Brian since I was under 15," Reid adds. "He knows every single thing about every single footballer in the world, pretty much. And I think that as an international manager that is what you need."

Reid has won with Kerr in the past. Along with John O'Shea and Liam Miller he was in the Irish Under-16s team who, amazingly, triumphed at the 1998 European Championships. That longevity means that many in the senior squad are not just team-mates but friends. "I'm working with people I've known for a lot of my life," Reid says.

And there is science as well as sociability. The tailored DVDs Kerr introduced - containing information, clips and highlights of opponents and what the Irish players themselves have done - are still being sent. One was delivered to Reid last week. "It covers the last four months," he says.

The next few months are crucial. Ireland sit on top of Group Four - on goal difference - in the tightest of four-horse races which includes a dangerous, if somewhat unknown, Israel. Draws away to Switzerland and France, as well as impressive victories in friendly matches, have fired expectation.

"But that's what happens when you get results and when you have a good team," Reid says. "And make no mistake, we are a good team, a good squad. Sometimes people overlook the quality we have. When you go and get good results and play well and play entertaining football it raises the expectancy and people are excited."

Qualification is being talked about, not just whispered, back in those Dublin streets. "People probably are expecting us to qualify but we're not looking at it like that," Reid says. "We are not cocky. We are just going about the job professionally."

It is why he rates Saturday's match in Tel Aviv "the biggest we have had so far". But such is the belief in the Irish squad that Reid can also reflect on those two draws as points dropped. "We could have won both," he says. "We had the chances." This time the trium-virate intend to take them.

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