Andorra v Republic of Ireland (Thurs) – BBC Sport

Cullen left West Ham to join Anderlecht in October
Cullen left West Ham to join Anderlecht in October
Venue: Estadi Nacional, Andorra Date: Thursday, 3 June Kick-off: 17:00 BST
Coverage: Live text updates and match report on the BBC Sport website

Anderlecht’s Josh Cullen has offered a glowing assessment of his first season playing under Vincent Kompany as he looks to help Stephen Kenny secure his first win as Republic of Ireland boss.

Cullen finished third in the Belgian Pro League with Kompany’s Anderlecht after joining from West Ham in October.

The midfielder, 25, hopes to earn his eighth Republic cap in Thursday’s friendly against Andorra.

“As a manager, he’s been brilliant, to be honest,” said Cullen.

“To work with him every day, the amount of depth he goes into with preparation, not only for games but for training sessions and how clear he is to us as players about the role he wants to us to take up within the team system, it’s fantastic.

“Every day, he’s hands-on in training, his coaching is brilliant and that comes from his knowledge of the game, the teams he has played in, the managers he’s worked under as well.”

Cullen came through the ranks at West Ham but accepted Kompany’s offer to join Anderlecht after failing to break into the Hammers’ first-team under David Moyes.

And playing regularly under the former Manchester City defender has benefitted Cullen’s burgeoning international career after Kenny opted to start him in the World Cup qualifying defeats by Serbia and Luxembourg in March.

Now, with an encouraging first year of Belgian football under his belt, Cullen is determined to play his part in transforming the Republic’s fortunes under Kenny, although he insists there is no “mental block” preventing the squad from progressing under the former Dundalk boss.

“Obviously it goes without saying that as a group, we’re desperate to win games and we know the results we have picked up over the last year haven’t been good enough,” said Cullen, who made his international debut in September 2019 under Mick McCarthy.

“But I think we can take encouragement from some of the performances we’ve put in and I don’t think we’ve been far away in a few games from getting the wins that we need and we want as a group, so no, there’s no mental block from winning games, definitely not.”

Cullen made 30 appearances during his first season with Anderlecht
Cullen made 30 appearances during his first season with Anderlecht

He added: “You look at the best teams around the world – they know how to win ugly as well, I suppose, and grind out results.

“A lot of games are won by the odd goal and unfortunately, it’s gone the other way for us on a few occasions. But I’m sure that will turn with the hard work we’re putting in as a squad.”

The Republic face Andorra on Thursday before taking on Hungary in Budapest on Tuesday.

The friendly games offer Kenny the chance to experiment with his squad ahead of the resumption of their World Cup qualifying campaign in September.

Kenny will be without Darren Randolph, Callum Robinson and Aaron Connolly following their withdrawal from the squad due to injury, while James McCarthy, Ciaran Clark, Jeff Hendrick, Enda Stevens and Alan Browne are also absent from the panel.

There will be opportunities to pump fresh blood into the Republic squad, however, with uncapped quartet Andrew Omobamidele, Jamie McGrath, Daniel Mandroiu and Chiedozie Ogbene all having received their first call-ups.

But Sam Szmodics seems set to miss out on the chance to make his debut after Kenny revealed the Peterborough United midfielder has suffered a recurrence of a shoulder injury in training.

Szmodics, who scored 15 goals to help Peterborough earn promotion to the Championship in May, was drafted into the squad for the first time last week following the withdrawals of Connolly and Robinson.

“Sam Szmodics hurt his shoulder, just a previous injury that he had,” said Kenny, who will also be without captain Seamus Coleman (hamstring) for the Andorra game.

“He just came down awkwardly on his shoulder. It’s nothing serious, but it’s an injury he had earlier in the season, so that will rule him out.”

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