ColumnRonnie Whelan on Euros memories, 'that' goal v USSR and Trent's time to shine

With the start of the Euros soon upon us, I have to say it brings back incredible memories for me on a personal level.

They were magnificent times with the Republic of Ireland back then, but the only problem is it was a million years ago!

Ireland qualified for their first-ever major tournament in 1988 and me and a few of my Liverpool mates, John Aldridge and Ray Houghton, were part of it.

It was just a great time for the country. We weren’t expected to win anything, we weren’t expected to come out of the group and we had to face England, the Netherlands and USSR.

It was always going to be difficult but, like we always did, we made a go of it. We beat England in the first game, with Ray scoring a great goal.

When you looked around our dressing room before the game, I was thinking: ‘We’ve got as good as them in this dressing room, we’ve got a chance.’ Nobody gave us a chance and we got a bit of luck in the end.

Gary Lineker missed a couple of chances and Packie Bonner made a couple of great saves, but we stuck at it and we won the game.

I don’t think anybody bar us in the dressing room gave us a chance, but we expected to win it.

Obviously people still come up to me and talk about my goal against USSR. Sometimes things happen in a game, and you wonder why they happened.

Mick McCarthy was out on the left wing! He was our centre-back but for some reason he went to the left wing and took a long throw-in. As the ball was floating into the edge of the box, it was just one of those split decisions you tell yourself, ‘Go on!’

You might break your back or miss it completely but it came off the bottom of my shin high up on my foot and then just sort of looped over Rinat Dasayev, who was probably the best goalkeeper in the world at the time.

To do that on a stage like the Euros was brilliant for me and the country and I will never forget it. Unfortunately, a late goal from the Dutch knocked us out but it was a brilliant experience.

After that we went on to reach the World Cup in 1990 and 1994 too. Generations later on, the kids that were watching us – the likes of Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Richard Dunne – all wanted to get out there, play in World Cups and try overhead kicks, so it was great for Ireland back then.

This time around I will be out in Germany to cover the tournament for Irish TV and I’m excited. I really look forward to them. I’ve been covering these major tournaments for a while now with my TV work, I’ve been to some amazing places and it’s brilliant.

In terms of who could win the Euros, I’m one of those that doesn’t see the likes of Germany, England or Spain winning it. I think Portugal have got a good chance of winning this one with Diogo Jota fit again and scoring goals. Look at how strong their bench is.

If I was to have a bet, my each-way bet would be for Portugal to finish first or second.

I have to say, I do think this is the best chance England will have for a long, long time. That new generation got them to the final of the last Euros against Italy and a lot of the squad are still in, so that’s going to be interesting to see what happens.

You’ve also got France and you can never write them off. There are some very good players in this tournament.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Trent Alexander-Arnold does for England. He certainly has the quality in abundance to shine.

I’d like to see Gareth Southgate start him in midfield. He has got other people in the squad who can play at right-back – Joe Gomez, for example.

I’d like to see him given a run of three or four games in midfield because I thought in the friendly game against Bosnia and Herzegovina he was very good.

We all know how good Trent’s passing range is, he sees a pass quickly. You need to get your head up in these big games, and if he can provide Harry Kane in that final third with Phil Foden running through the middle, he could give England that little edge. Trent sees that pass quicker than others.

I’ll be keeping a close eye to see how all the Liverpool players do in the tournament.

I’m looking forward to seeing how Dominik Szoboszlai does for Hungary – their clash with Switzerland is the first game I will be covering.

The Netherlands have also got a good chance with our captain Virgil van Dijk, Cody Gakpo and Ryan Gravenberch.

I think this is going to be a really exciting tournament.

I would just like to end this column with a few words about my old mate Alan Hansen. Stay strong, Jocky, you are in our prayers and we are all with you.

Ronnie Whelan was talking to's Steve Hunter