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bet365 exclusive interview with Ian Harte

After a sensational win against Liverpool at Anfield, the team at bet365 sat down with former Leeds United and Republic of Ireland left-back Ian Harte.

You were part of Ireland's squad that reached the World Cup in 2002. What are your memories of that tournament?

Well to be honest, it was brilliant. The group that we were in, it was Cameroon, Iran and Germany. It was a difficult group to try and get out of, but we achieved it. We had some great players within the team like Damien Duff and Robbie Keane. We had good strength in depth within the squad. No big names like an England squad, but the difference is that we went out and gave 100%.  

Will you be supporting any teams this World Cup?

I'll be watching it. I live in England, my wife is English, my kids are English as well. So, I'll be watching and hoping that England do well. 

Moving on to Leeds United, who had a massive win at the weekend, what are your thoughts on that game and what can they do for the rest of the season?

They had a great start to the season. They had a little blip, especially looking back to the Arsenal game, they probably should have got something from that game. But I'm delighted that they got the win. Liverpool is a very difficult place to play, so to go there and do the job that they did the other day was quite remarkable. It just goes to show that all the players are fully behind the manager.

There was talk about Jesse Marsch potentially getting the sack at one point. Do you think they should stick with him a bit longer? What are your thoughts on Jesse Marsch?

I think he did well last season and this season. The start that they had - beating Chelsea at Elland Road, people are going to say 'Oh my God, Leeds are going to be right up there.' They had a bit of a blip, but I think every team goes through that. Hopefully that win against Liverpool can push them on now.

When it comes to the end of the season do you think they'll still be in the Premier League, or do you think it will be a bit of relegation battle?

No, I think the strength they're putting forward is definitely good enough. I think they added some very good players in the summer time, and they just needed a win, which they got at Liverpool. Hopefully they can build on that. I think the next game they have is Bournemouth at home, so if they can get a win there, I think it will start pushing them up the table. 

They had a good start to the season, then there was a bit of a blip. Can you put your finger on why that happened? Do you think it was a lack of signings with Premier League experience? Why do you think it dipped a bit halfway through the early quarter of the season?

No idea really, but let's be honest, Man United had a bad start and look at the roll they're on at the moment. I think every team goes through it, and let's hope that Leeds are at the other end of it now and can build in form.

Do you think a World Cup break will help teams like Leeds? Obviously they have a few international players, but the bigger clubs have more international players. Do you think that this World Cup could favour the mid-tier clubs, the lower-level clubs, for the second half of the season?

Time will tell, but I think a lot of clubs will kind of regroup. All clubs will have to do a mini pre-season again because the football will stop. We'll just have to wait and see how it's going to affect each team when they come back from the World Cup. 

What's your best memory at Leeds? And your worst?

My best memory is scoring a goal in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. The worst is probably getting relegated at. You go from one amazing achievement - of course everyone wants to play Champions League football, but for any football team to get relegated it's pretty horrible. 

There was quite a big Leeds presence in the Irish World Cup squad of 2002. Would you be able to talk about that? What was it like being with your clubmates? Was it quite a close camp because of that?

Within the whole group there was a great togetherness. In all the squads I was in, everyone was very supportive of one another, even if you weren't starting. No matter which eleven were picked by Mick McCarthy, you wanted everyone to go out and do their best because if we went out and did well everyone would benefit from it. 

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What do you make of the job Paul Ince is doing at one of your other former clubs Reading so far?

Pretty remarkable, really. To do what he's done early on in the season has been remarkable. Hopefully he can keep it up. I was only at Reading for three years but it's an amazing club, and it's just brilliant that they're doing well this year. 

Reading are flirting with top six so far. Do you think they're playoff contenders?

I think they can definitely stay in the mix as long as they keep the key players fit. They're playing some good football. I watched the game when they played against Sunderland, and they actually played them off the park. I think it was a bit of blip for them. Sunderland turned up without a striker, and they were below par that day, but Paul Ince has done a great job so far and hopefully it will continue. 

Speaking of Sunderland, what do you make of the appointment of Tony Mowbray to replace Alex Neil?

Tony's a great guy, I know him quite well. Of course, with a manager leaving under those circumstances I think fans would be disappointed that Alex Neil left, but he moved on to Stoke. That's in the past now and I think the players are really enjoying their time under the guidance of someone like Tony, because of what he did at Blackburn last year with a small budget. That brings belief within the group, and I think he's right for the young players that are at Sunderland.  

Who have you got to win the Championship? Is anyone standing out for you?

I'd probably say Sheffield United and Norwich, with the  strength in depth in their squads. Championship football is exciting. Nobody is running away with it at the moment, and that's the exciting thing about it.

You were known for being a free kick specialist in an era when David Beckham and Roberto Carlos were on the scene. How much of a compliment is that?

Let's be honest, David Beckham and Roberto Carlos were amazing free kick takers. I wouldn't say it was a compliment because I was pretty accurate with taking free kicks myself. There were some amazing free kick takers that were around when I was playing, but it's just one of those things. It's just about your technique and getting the ball across the wall and trying to hit the target. That's it in a nutshell.

Who would you say is the best free kick taker in the league at the minute?

I think James Ward-Prowse is one, and Kevin De Bruyne is another. He is just on a whole different level. Technically he's amazing, and the free kick he scored the other day against Leicester was literally right into the top corner. I think even if there had been two goalkeepers in there, they wouldn't have saved it. There are some very good technicians, and it's always nice when you see it come off as well.

In terms of predictions, who would you be backing for the top four if you could look at the league as it is now?

I think Man City will win the league. I think Arsenal will probably get in the top four this year. I really hope Newcastle do as well, because I think it's remarkable what Eddie Howe has done there in such a short space of time.

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