Saturday 22 October 2016

'Green army not a worry for us', says Gibraltar boss Jeff Wood

Gibraltar manager Jeff Wood
Gibraltar manager Jeff Wood

Gibraltar boss Jeff Wood says he's not concerned about his side's supporters being outnumbered by Irish fans in tomorrow's Euro qualifier.

As of this morning, 4,000 tickets have been sold for the Group D qualifier in Faro, but 2,500 of those have been sold to Irish supporters, many of who booked a week-long package holiday on the Algarve so they could take in the qualifier.

Already handicapped by the distance from their Gibraltar base (three hours by road), home advantage will be of little use to Wood's side against Ireland tomorrow.

But that's not a worry for English native Wood, who takes charge of the national side for the first time, having been appointed in July.

"I think our players will respond to the bigger crowd, they did that with the German fans and will do so with the Irish support," manager Wood told The Herald.

"Our team responded well to the bigger crowd against Germany when we played them in Faro in June.

"From a playing point of view there's nothing worse than playing in a stadium with 500 people so if the Irish fans generate an atmosphere - and I am sure they will do - it will help us as well," added Wood (61).

The much-travelled coach admits that it's not easy to prepare his side (all part-timers bar Bristol Rovers man Jake Gosling) for a clash with a team like Ireland.

"It's difficult," he admits. "But things are moving on rapidly with the league here in Gibraltar, whereas two/three years ago the players were technically part-time and only training once or twice a week, now most clubs here are training five times a week and working really hard, we have foreign coaches coming in and the standard is rising all the time, even in the last 18 months.

"We have to work with the players' employers and work on things like unpaid leave. Some of the players' employers, especially the ones who work for the government, are a bit more flexible towards the players.

Gibraltar, bottom of Group D, have changed their approach of late: they're not so keen to recruit eligible players via the 'granny rule' but instead are intent on bring through home grown talent.

"In the past we did look for those players through the parentage rule, and we will continue to, but there's a lot of young talent here in Gibraltar. I have worked at a lot of levels, coached at premier League level and I know that some of the players here are technically as good as players anywhere," says Wood.

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