Instances of players wearing number 5 while operating as wide midfielders are not too plentiful.
There was Lee Sharpe at Manchester United and Ruel Fox at Newcastle United in the 1990s, and before that Ray Kennedy and Ronnie Whelan at Liverpool, but by and large it is seen as a centre-back’s number in Europe.
While Shane Duffy did recently wear 7 while playing centre-back for the Republic of Ireland and Robbie Brady has appeared at left-back wearing 10, but the idea of number 5 appearing anywhere other than centre-back for the Boys In Green is almost sacrilege. At the major tournaments Ireland have appeared in, it has been worn by Kevin Moran (1988 European Championship and 1990 World Cup), Paul McGrath (1994 World Cup), Steve Staunton (2002 World Cup), Richard Dunne (2012 European Championship) and Richard Keogh (2016 European Championship) – all played in the heart of the defence.
Keogh has been the man in possession since midway through the Euro 2016 qualifiers – Ireland have tended to have some inconsistencies game to game, though – and has worn it for the four 2018 World Cup qualifiers thus far, though he only started the first game, away to Serbia. Whether he starts or is a substitute for the big game against Wales at the Aviva Stadium on Friday night, though, Keogh won’t be wearing 5.
Last Sunday night, Irish football was shocked to learn of the death of Derry City captain Ryan McBride, who was aged just 27. Ireland winger James McClean was a friend and former team-mate of the centre-back and so, as a mark of respect, he has asked to wear 5 against Wales instead of his customary 11, with Keogh happy to oblige.
Tonight we lost someone i had the privilege to play along aside but also got on well with of the field, a warrior that literally would throw his body on the line when he pulled on that Derry City jersey, a club that meant so much to him, but more importantly a big gentleman of the field.. sleep tight big man may god bless you and your family 😔🔴⚪️ #5 #townilovedsowell
One would imagine that McClean will revert to 11 after Friday, while Derry might consider retiring 5 in honour of McBride – last year, they retired number 18 in the wake of Mark Farren’s premature death. Other number tributes seen in the past include Dani Alves wearing 22 at Barcelona after Eric Abidal’s retirement and 4 for Brazil following the death of Carlos Alberto, while goalkeeper Stephen Bywater has worn 43 for Derby County, Cardiff City, Sheffield Wednesday, Millwall, Gillingham and Kerala Blasters as his mentor Les Sealey was 43 when he died.
Update: Keogh switched from 5 to 3, with another winger, Daryl Horgan, wearing the 11 vacated by McClean.