Scotland v Republic of Ireland: Houghton tips duo to handle flak

Ray Houghton scores against Italy
Ray Houghton scored a stunning goal as Republic of Ireland beat Italy 1-0 in the 1994 World Cup
Scotland v Republic of Ireland
Venue: Celtic Park Date: 14 November Kick-off: 19:45 GMT
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio Scotland & online. Live text on BBC Sport website.

Ray Houghton expects James McCarthy and Aiden McGeady to handle any stick they receive from Scotland fans in Friday's Euro 2016 qualifier in Glasgow.

It has been predicted the pair will be targeted because they were born in Scotland but play for the Republic of Ireland.

And Houghton, who was also born in Scotland but played for the Republic, said: "You're going to get some stick from the fans. So what?

"If you're a top player you get that."

Former Scotland defender Gordon McQueen this week said he hopes McCarthy and McGeady take flak at Celtic Park for the crucial match.

Republic of Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given criticised the tone of McQueen's remarks on Tuesday but Houghton believes the Republic pair will be able to deal with any booing on Friday night.

"Gordon McQueen's comments that they're going to have a tough time, of course they are," Houghton added.

Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy
Everton team-mates Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy are in the Republic of Ireland squad

"If they don't know that going into this game then they're very foolish. The management team of Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane will make them fully aware of it.

"They've played in big games - Aiden's played in Celtic-Rangers games, James has played in Merseyside derbies. They've handled these games very well and this is another game for them to go out and enjoy.

"It's only words and if you go out with the right attitude and keep your focus, that's what you're there to do. You shouldn't be worried about what people say about you."

Houghton revealed he took stick when he turned out for the Republic against Scotland at Hampden, but insisted he never had a decision to make when choosing which international side to play for.

"Scotland never came in for me, so there was no choice," he told BBC Scotland.

"If I'd had to make the choice it might have been a little bit different, but at the time when I was asked by Ireland to come and join them, there was no interest from Scotland, I hadn't heard a word from them."

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Speaking after the Republic's training session on Tuesday morning, Given said that criticism directed at McCarthy and McGeady in recent days had been "a bit out of order".

"The Scottish team have got some players who weren't born in Scotland as well, so I think it was unfair on both James and Aiden for it to get so personal," added Given.

"But they are both great players and they will be ready for Friday night."

In terms of the game itself on Friday, Houghton is expecting a tight affair with both sides hoping to build on good starts to their Group D campaign.

"You'd have to say Scotland are slight favourites, mainly because they're at home," he said.

"It's a really tough game to call, both of them are playing really well, both are very confident going into the game."

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