McClean: Treat Gibraltar like Germany

McClean: Treat Gibraltar like Germany
Picture: INPHO/Steve Langan

James McClean has warned his Republic of Ireland team-mates not to allow themselves to be written into football folklore for the wrong reasons.

The Republic resume their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign against Gibraltar on Saturday looking to pile on the misery following the newcomers’ opening day 7-0 home defeat to Poland last month.

That proved the rudest of awakenings for the Group D minnows as they were left in little doubt, if they needed it, of what lies ahead as they prepare for showdowns with Ireland, Georgia, Scotland and World champions Germany.

However, McClean is refusing to be taken in by the Poles’ landslide victory with Martin O’Neill’s men looking to provide themselves with a platform for what is certain to be a far more taxing trip to Germany next Tuesday.

He said: “Obviously, Gibraltar are new to world football and then there’s the Poland result in the last game.

“But for us, we have got to treat it like the Germany game. I know that’s the old cliche, but there have been a lot of upsets in football over the years and we have got to make sure we are not one come Saturday.

“If we can get an early goal, great, it takes the pressure off. But if it takes until the 80th minute... We have just got to make sure we get three points. At the end of the day, that’s the most important thing.”

O’Neill is equally keen to keep feet firmly on the ground ahead of a game which he insists could prove more difficult in reality than it looks on paper.

He had his players watch sections of the Gibraltar v Poland match on Tuesday and will draw up his plan armed with an impromptu briefing from the Polish camp after bumping into them at a FIFA conference in Russia.

O’Neill said: “I was speaking to the Polish representatives, who were right beside us, and they were saying how difficult the game against Gibraltar was, breaking them down, scoring the goal in the first half – they were obviously relieved about that.

“I watched the game and I see the problems that they had, particularly in the first half. I think Gibraltar probably conceded about four goals in the last 10 or 12, 14 minutes of the game.

“The game will be difficult enough for us, and that’s the time that we want to be preparing properly for.

“The German game, obviously, causes its own concerns – that comes afterwards. It’s a tough game for us, obviously, and one that I really cannot really concern myself about until we have played Gibraltar.”

O’Neill reported no injury concerns after working with his players, including newly-arrived Hull full-back Brian Lenihan, at a rain-soaked Gannon Park on Wednesday morning.

He did so with excerpts from assistant Roy Keane’s updated autobiography still causing a stir outside, if not inside, the camp.

O’Neill said with a smile: “I have things to do this week, like Gibraltar. I am not concerned about anybody’s book at this moment, particularly my assistant manager.”

McClean, a boyhood Manchester United fan who is relishing the opportunity to work under the Old Trafford old boy, too insisted the furore surrounding his book was proving no distraction.

He said: “I don’t see why. Roy writes a book – it’s not going to affect what we do on the pitch. That’s his business. We are here to focus on two games and get the best two results possible.”

The Wigan midfielder was sporting a beard as he spoke to reporters, but insisted he was not engaged in a competition with Keane, whose facial hair has become a talking point in recent weeks.

He said: “Roy’s beard – that’s some beard. I don’t think I can grow that one, I haven’t got the thickness.”

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