The Republic of Ireland stand on the brink of yet another play-off with the memories of Paris slowly and menacingly looming into view.
It is clear the deep wounds of that night and that handball are still raw and perhaps will only begin to heal if the current generation can nudge past Estonia and reach Euro 2012 – their first tournament since 2002.
The soccer betting is certainly pointing towards a Republic win. Estonia are the lowest ranked team in the play-offs, playing in their first ever play-off and therefore were the team Ireland would have chosen to play had they been given the option. It is little wonder then that Leicester defender Sean St Ledger believes it is meant to be.
“I’m a big believer in fate,” St Ledger says. “It was a huge injustice in Paris but who knows? We might get one ourselves this time. I won’t be complaining. I’ll be a complete hypocrite.”
Few would begrudge Ireland a bit of luck should fortune fall on their side after the injustice in France but they will have to do so without a number of key players. Leon Best had to pull out of the squad for the first game in Tallinn with a toe injury, joining Liam Lawrence and Shane Long on the sidelines. Kevin Doyle is also suspended, meaning Jonathan Walters or Simon Cox will partner the captain Robbie Keane in attack. Best, however, could return along with John O’Shea for next week’s second leg in Dublin.
On a personal level St Ledger admitted his respect for Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni for helping him progress over the past few months, especially as at club level the football scores haven’t gone his way.
He suffered relegation to League One with Preston last season before a big-money move to Leicester went sour, falling out of favour under boss Sven Goran Eriksson before his sacking earlier this month. However, Trapattoni has been lauded for helping him at international level, despite his owes in the domestic game.
“I have to thank Giovanni a million times for what he’s done for my career,” St Ledger added. “There have obviously been bad times and playing for Ireland has kept me going at times. For me, coming from Peterborough United, and to now be working alongside people like Giovanni and [the assistant manager] Marco Tardelli, and to be playing alongside the players in the Ireland squad … it’s surreal, really.”