Day One in the Big Brothers house and, as he walked towards the Gannon Park training pitch past the unusually swollen ranks of media, security and fans in attendance, Robbie Keane cracked a grin and observed that there must be a new manager about the place.
Bright and early, Roy Keane had been first to arrive, with goalkeeping coach Seamus McDonagh, and the pair were soon joined by Martin O’Neill to oversee the first training session of the new Ireland management era.
Afterwards, the Derryman was happy to report that, following an initial meet and greet with the players at the team hotel the previous night, the morning session had been “short and sharp”, expressing satisfaction that “the little formula” he and his assistant had worked out had gone according to plan.
“It’s not rocket science,” he added. He also, as is his wont, had plenty to say on a variety of other subjects…
Latvia and Poland
“Obviously, I want to win the games, [but] there’ll be a bit of experimentation I think. By the end of the second game I wouldn’t have minded a number of players having had some time on the field. Now that might not tell me everything but it might give me a better clue as to what their capabilities are. Eventually, I’m going to know that by watching them at club level all the time. I’m talking about Stephen Ireland, I’m talking about a number of players. That will be my remit.”
“Do I think the Irish players are capable of expressing themselves? I would hope so. I think we have some players here. There are a number of ways of playing it. I don’t want to tell you something here and then find out that we’re totally and utterly incapable of doing that, if that’s the case. Please don’t let me make big promises here. Eventually, we have certain players to play with. It’s not as if we can buy in six or seven by the time September comes.”
Round pegs in round holes
“Only very briefly this morning I spoke to Jon Walters and I asked him what he thought, if he had a free choice, what his best position was. Jon essentially can play off the centre-forward, where he’s played with [Peter] Crouch for some time [at Stoke] and maybe would be the second striker, but he has also often played out on the touchline. And it was just interesting to ask him. I’m not saying everybody in my team will get that choice — there might be a time where somebody will just have to play out of position for a little while. But if you’ve got seven or eight playing out of position then you’re going to be in a bit of trouble somewhere along the way.”
“Well, Aiden, he looked a wonder kid when he was 17 or 18 years of age. I remember one night he played against AC Milan when he was absolutely fantastic, a Champions League game. He had all the confidence in the world. Sometimes I think in terms of his development, I would probably have expected Aiden to really be an absolutely world-class player now. I throw that phrase around with gay abandon but I would have expected him to have really pushed on. I still feel he has so much more to offer. I still think he’s young enough to do it.”
“I have to say that as a club manager they were the bane of my life. [John] O’Shea would come to me and say, ‘I think we’ve got another one’ and I would say ‘when, like Christmas Eve?’ I mean, honestly, they just appeared out of the calendar. Now I just think that they are the best thing ever.”
“Dermot called me, absolutely. I have known him for quite some time and he was the one who took me to Celtic and I’m eternally grateful for that. It’s not to say we speak on a daily basis, in fact I wouldn’t have done. But he did give me a call to see if I would have an interest in the [Ireland] job. I said to Dermot I would have a real interest in the job but it was about getting my head around thinking about international management.”
Turning down Premier League jobs
“Er, John [Delaney] said that. John didn’t get that from me, all right, okay? There are only 20 league teams. I don’t want you checking up! All right, I’ve had some offers but, you know, as everybody always says: loads of irons in the fire, that kind of thing. Isn’t that the usual answer?”
Andy Reid’s guitar
“If he plays it well, I haven’t a problem with it. At some stage Andy will have to go to bed, won’t he? If he still continued playing at 5:30am, even if we won, even I might be fed up with that.”
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