Derry visit a chance for Dixon to cement place at Waterford

McGeough to re-live memories of his heyday with Waterford

PANAMANIAN native Alex Dixon aims to build on his growing reputation in Waterford's FAI Carlsberg Cup tie against Derry City at the Brandywell tonight (7.45pm).

Dixon saw a brief period of action for Waterford when they beat Limerick in a penalty shoot-out in the previous round of the Cup. But in the past two weeks, he has enhanced his claim for regular inclusion in what is a problem position for Waterford.

The ambitious young striker was recruited this summer by Waterford manager Jimmy McGeough, who recognised his potential when Dixon played for Metro Stars, New York.

"I warned him that it would be a bit of a culture shock for him in our league," McGeough said "and I think the guy was initially a little shell-shocked at the way players were able to get away with an aggressive attitude he was not familiar with.

"He was also a stone and a half overweight when he came in, and while he has lost a good stone of that, he must lose more. But he is coming to terms with it and he has a good chance of making the grade for us," he said.

The Derry visit will be significant for McGeough, who will always be associated with the sparkling Waterford team of the late sixties and early seventies. His contribution to Waterford's heavy trophy-chest at that time was immense and his lively play in midfield helped them to a marvellous reputation.

McGeough was born in Derry and played for them in the sixties in the Irish League. Coincidentally, Derry was his first port of call when he returned from America midway through last season to assume responsibility for Waterford. He took control when Waterford lost to Derry in the semi-final of the League Cup at the Brandywell.

His relatives now live in Belfast but a return to Derry will be emotional.

He was adamant it would not interfere with his aim of knocking them out of the Cup.

"I see the youngsters here getting better and better and we have made a lot of progress in a short time.

"Derry's record speaks for itself without a win in five League matches but you get the feeling that this is a sleeping giant. Question is will we meet a sleeping giant or a cornered rat fighting desperately for survival?"

Waterford fell by the only goal of the match last week to Kildare County in the first-division cup and the physical nature of the Kildare challenge brought McGeough's dilemma into sharp focus: Will he succeed in leading Waterford out of the first division to the premier by encouraging his troops to play like the victorious teams of the seventies?

"Some people have said to me we will have to change our style, that we will have to kick our way out of the division" he said, "but that is not for me. "There are a couple of teams in the first division who can play well enough to play in the premier division where you are given more chance to play good football. We outclassed Kildare and it was an injustice that we got nothing from the match.

"But I am not going to change our style, I am not going to ask my players to play something that is half-way between gaelic and rugby.

McGeough has a full squad of players available for the first time this season.

Vinny Sullivan, Darryl Murphy, David Breen and Kelvin Flanagan are available after missing recent matches and McGeough has a squad of 18 which he believes is strong.

"When I went to Derry last season for my first match, I did not think I had a team, but now we are shaping up nicely," he said.

"My only concern is that some of these young players will be playing in front of a big crowd for the first time. "This will create more atmosphere and excitement than the players have been used to, but it is what footballers love and I'm sure they will respond."

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