"There's 30 pints of Guinness on the table! The night before a World Cup quarter final" 1 month ago

"There's 30 pints of Guinness on the table! The night before a World Cup quarter final"

"When we were away, we had to ask for a curfew. We had to say, 'Jack, we don't want to go out tonight!'"

Andy Townsend was 21 years old and playing non-league football for Weymouth when he got his big break with Southampton. Four years later and he was playing international football for Jack Charlton's Ireland.

Townsend went on to captain Ireland at the 1994 World Cup, won 70 caps and was inducted into the FAI Hall of Fame in 2015. Not bad for a Maidstone boy.

Charlton's 'Put 'Em Under Pressure' mantra was all about getting the ball up the far end of the pitch and pressing the opposition in their own half. In many ways, it was an early version of the high press of 'gegenpressing' that Jürgen Klopp is lauded for.

"A lot if teams couldn't cope with it. If you did it well, you were in business" Townsend tells JOE's All To Play For. "We had some serious players.

"We're all playing football for our clubs, then going to Ireland and, bang, going after it. But we had some very good players going for us."

Sticking to the Charlton play-book, and with players such as Paul McGrath, Ray Houghton and John Aldridge in the squad, Ireland qualified for three major tournaments between 1988 and 1994.

That is not to say, though, that there was not a lot of looseness and extra-curricular activities in the Irish camp. Says Townsend:

"I'm so grateful for those amazing days we had together, under Jack, and the fun. The seriousness of it, of course, in playing at World Cups and in big games, but the fun you had together... that now, 20 years and nearly 30 years on from all of that, is what come into my mind more than anything else. The little fun memories that you shared with that group."

The former Aston Villa and Chelsea midfielder recalls the chants on the team bus that used to ring out after each training session, during an international week.

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"After training, we used to sing a little song," he recalls. "It was, 'Jackie, get us a pint. Jackie, Jackie, get us a pint'. Jack would be up the front of the bus and he's turn around - 'Bugger off!'

"Sure enough, we'd pull over at a pub. This would be 2 o'clock and we've just finished training. We'd still have our kit on and we'd have a pint. Literally the one pint of Guinness, done. Back to the hotel, shower and down for the evening meal."

Townsend made his Ireland debut against France in February 1989, eight months after the team had first captured the nation's full attention at Euro '88. He was part of a team that topped its' qualifying pool for the 1990 World Cup - beating Spain along the way - and went to Italy with intentions of going deep into the tournament.

Andy Townsend and Tony Cascarino of Republic of Ireland run to celebrate with goalkeeper Packie Bonner after the penalty shoot out during 1990 World Cup at the Stadio Luigi Ferraris in Genoa, Italy. (Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile)

Charlton's side drew all of their group stage games but reached the knock-out stages, where they defeated Romania in a penalty shoot-out to advance to the quarter final. There, they would face hosts Italy and a star-studded team that included Roberto Baggio, Walter Zenga, Franco Baresi and new scoring sensation Salvatore 'Toto' Schillaci.

The Irish players had met Pope John Paul II in the lead-up to the game, but any prayers for a sound nights' sleep before the team's biggest ever game went unanswered. Townsend recalls:

"Before that game, the Italians had leaked where we were staying. So we're playing the Italians, in Rome, and we were like lambs to the slaughter. The gladiators are going to skewer us, this afternoon. They were thinking it was going to be one of them.

"So it was leaked where we were staying and all the taxi drivers in Rome were outside the hotel, driving in circles and beeping their horns the whole night long. We had started looking out the window, wondering if something was wrong until we realised. The cabbies were taking it in turns to come around and toot their horns.

"So we get a phone call around half past 10 from Jack - 'There's a meeting on now, downstairs'. When we get down, there's 30 pints of Guinness on the table! The night before a World Cup quarter final.

"And it was like, 'Come on, we'll have a couple of these and then they can f***ing toot their horns all night long'. Have a couple of beers and you'll sleep better. Bingo. Job done."

The lads were all back in their rooms by midnight and sleep came a little easier to them, although the horns did not quit until the early hours.

Townsend's story would have been all the better had Ireland emerged victorious, but it was not to be. Toto Schillaci saw to that and the 1-0 win saw Ireland depart early.

The Italians did not have it all their own way in the semi-finals, though. They faced Argentina in Naples in the last four and many of the mad 'Gli Azzurri' fans actually rooted for home-town hero Diego Maradona in that one.

CATCH THAT FULL ANDY TOWNSEND INTERVIEW: