Cox warns Irish must get to grips with plastic

REPUBLIC of Ireland striker Simon Cox admits that Giovanni Trapattoni’s side will have to adapt quickly to the Luzhniki Stadium’s artificial surface tomorrow evening.

England and Aston Villa have lost on the ‘Field Turf’ surface in the past and, although Martin O’Neill was heavily critical of it afterwards, Alex Ferguson had no such issues before and after Manchester United won there against CSKA Moscow.

Clubs like QPR, Luton Town and Oldham Athletic were pioneers in the use of artificial grass in football in the 1980s but the professional English game has been played exclusively on the real stuff since the early 1990s.

Cox did get a taste of the artificial variety when he faced the Portland Timbers at the JELD-WEN Field in Oregon on West Brom’s recent US summer tour and admitted he was one of many players who struggled to come to grips with it.

“It’s [difficult] because the ball rolls differently, the bounce is different and the way you strike the ball is different,” said Cox. “They’re used to it, we’re not. If we perform well enough, we feel we’re a better side to go and win the game.”

With Shane Long ruled out and Kevin Doyle clearly less than 100% fit in the game against Slovakia on Friday, Cox is expected to play a major part against the Russians, though it remains to be seen if he starts or comes off the bench.

Like everyone else in the Irish camp, Cox has played down the damage done in that game at the Aviva Stadium and believes that, though a win isn’t required at all costs, Ireland are well capable of doing just that tomorrow.

“If we go out there and get a point it’s two points they haven’t picked up either,” he reasoned.

“They’ve still got Slovakia to play as well. Depending on results, we still have Armenia and Andorra left to play.

“We’re still in a strong position. If we take a good amount of points from the next three games, we’ll definitely be there or thereabouts. I don’t think we should lose this game. I can’t see why we should lose this game.

“We’re still on a good run of form and the lads are upbeat despite the result. I don’t see why the lads would walk into the game thinking we weren’t going to win because we still feel we’re a good side and we’re going to win.”

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