Former Ireland midfielder also talks about pros and cons of a 3-4-3 for the Boys in Green
Former Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews believes James McClean's comments about the commitment of some footballers is a sign of his growing maturity and leadership within the international setup.
West Brom winger McClean had spoken of his frustration with international players who suddenly seemed to regain fitness when club commitments came around, telling RTE Sport, "It gets on my nerves when players come in and they're not fit for games, but they are for the club games at the weekend. That gets to me."
It is an example of McClean's outspoken nature which was often played out on social media in his younger days.
But speaking to Newstalk's Team 33 at Aviva Stadium for the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s National Finals, Andrews backed McClean in regards to his recent comments.
"James has really matured over the last few years. There's no doubt about that. He's taken that responsibility of being a key player very, very well. You can just see the passion from his veins, the fans buy into it and over the last year or so, he's become a fans favourite. Because he is literally a fan on the pitch," said Andrews.
"We're in an era that players tend to be very safe in what they say because they know they can get into trouble, especially now with social media.
"James has had that and I think he's learned from it. So now I think he has his opinion, everybody's waiting for it, waiting for him to step over that line. Whereas I think as of late, he's just gone up to that line and I think that's a sign of his maturity. You see it at club level. He's not always been playing but when he comes on, he impacts games and I think again, that's a sense of maturity. I just think he's in a really good place."
On McClean's remarks, Andrews found them "refreshing" and added that he liked them because "it shows the passion that he has" to play for Ireland regardless of the occasion.
As thoughts turn to the 2018 World Cup qualifier against Austria on June 11th after the upcoming friendlies against Mexico and Uruguay in New Jersey and Dublin respectively, Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has hinted that he will trial a 3-4-3 formation against the Mexicans. Andrews explained the intricacies of that system from a central midfielder's point of view.
"It's a system that generally needs a lot of time on the training ground. For centre halves in particular, there are a lot of grey areas like when to step in because at times you have to play like a full back and some centre halves aren't comfortable doing that," he said.
"As a midfielder, it doesn't tend to really alter your positioning. At times, you might have to cover for a full back but this particular game is about fitness levels and seeing how players react to international football.
"[Mexico] are a tough side and we are lacking a lot of our key players so it's a case of who's going to shine, who's going to stake that claim to stay in the squad for this time round and beyond."
The full interview with Keith Andrews will be broadcast and podcasted on Newstalk's Team 33 next Tuesday including his thoughts on Big Sam Allardyce's impact on him and ex-Rovers team-mate Steven N'Zonzi's meteoric rise since moving to Sevilla.
SPAR FAI Primary School 5s Programme ambassador and former Republic of Ireland International Keith Andrews was at the Aviva Stadium to watch the SPAR FAI Primary School 5s National Finals where girls and boys from 12 counties battled it out for national honours. The 2017 SPAR Primary School 5s Programme was the biggest yet as 28,576 children from 1,495 schools took part in county, regional and provincial blitzes nationwide. For further information please see www.spar.ie or www.faischools.ie