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Josh Cullen reported for Republic of Ireland duty revelling in the football education he is receiving under the watchful eye of Vincent Kompany.
The 25-year-old midfielder made the decision to leave West Ham for Belgian side Anderlecht in October last year, and is thriving under the former Manchester City skipper, who had taken charge at his former club two months earlier.
Cullen made 27 appearances as Anderlecht finished in third place behind Bruges and Royal Antwerp, and he cannot speak highly enough of 35-year-old Kompany’s influence.
He said: “As a manager, he’s been brilliant, to be honest. 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.
“As a manager, for me the first year working under him has been really good. He’s a great guy away from the pitch as well, someone who knows how to manage his players on a personal level as well.
“It’s been fantastic to work under him and I’ve enjoyed every minute of the past season that I’ve spent with him.”
Cullen won his first senior Ireland cap in a friendly victory over Bulgaria in September 2019 under Mick McCarthy, and has since added five more under Stephen Kenny.
He will hope for further opportunities over the next week with Kenny sending his men into friendly battle with Andorra and Hungary still waiting for his first win after 11 games as manager.
However, Cullen insists that run of results, while disappointing, is not distracting himself or his team-mates.
He said: “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.
“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.”
March’s 1-0 World Cup qualifier defeat by Luxembourg in Dublin signalled a new low for an Ireland side which has undergone a transition since Kenny’s appointment, and Cullen admits they need to rediscover the knack of winning in whatever fashion is required.
He said: “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.”