IF you analysed Ireland's friendly games over the last three years or so, one very obvious pattern emerges. There is a complete lack of fear and some great football.
Tuesday's friendly against the USA followed the same drill. Martin O'Neill shovelled most of his bench onto the pitch and the result was an exciting, open performance with skills, shots and saves on show.
Ireland won 4-1 and we learned that Shay Given is as sharp as a tack and in that form, has to be a candidate for a job against Poland. He needs game time at Aston Villa or somewhere else but if he gets that, O'Neill has a decision to make.
We also learned that Cyrus Christie is a good full-back going forward and that David McGoldrick may have something a bit different and talents which, over time, could be harnessed by O'Neill with some profit.
Robbie Brady showed how good a footballer he really is and did it from the full-back spot, which is always a handy position for a smart footballer to play from.
He has the whole game in front of him and can pick his moments to get forward and cause some havoc.
Chrsitie too showed adventure on the overlap and looks like a decent addition. O'Neill rates him highly as a footballer and it is clear that he is talented on the front foot.
Defending is part of the full-back's role , however, and Brady needs to learn that part of the role if he is thinking about converting. The jury is out on Christie until we see more of him and the same applies to McGoldrick.
All three benefitted from the fact that O'Neill gave his team licence to go out and play. I wouldn't say tactics featured strongly in his team talk before the game.
It was blatantly obvious that he had not restricted Christie or Brady in any way and told them to get forward whenever they saw a chance.
So here was a group of players, playing without fear and with the complete backing of their manager to go out and play.
There, in a nutshell, are the reasons why Ireland have played so well in friendlies but not so well when qualification points are at stake.
The last time I saw a really impressive display of football from Ireland was in Paris when Thierry Henry's handball denied the team a place in the South Africa World Cup finals.
I raved about the performance and genuinely believed that a football man like Giovanni Trapattoni would recognise what he had seen and change tack for the next qualification series.
He didn't. If anything, he coated his players in an even deeper layer of caution and removed all ambition from his full-backs.
But when he sent out teams in friendlies he didn't care too much about, Ireland looked fresh and more than capable of playing a game which didn't require such an negative view of the players' talents.
Martin O'Neill has now seen a lot of friendlies and used them well. Surely he must see how good these lads can be when the shackles come off.
My argument will always be that the manager should picks his best players in their best positions and let them play.
Of course a qualification game of the scale of the fixture in Gelsenkirchen last month or Glasgow a week ago brings all sorts of complications into play and cannot be compared to a friendly against Oman on a nice night in Fulham.
But the principle remains the same. Before the German game, everyone had all but given Joachim Low his points and moved on mentally to Scotland.
As events proved then and since, Germany are vulnerable at the moment and may never be more vulnerable again as they were when Ireland played them.
Ireland lost their discipline badly in Celtic Park and that was down to several factors. Experience was thin on the ground and the emotion of the night had an impact. That's fear by another name.
Really good managers score by removing as much of that fear as they can. They do it by force of personality, by preparation and by coaxing and cajoling
A player prone to losing his head in a difficult situation or allowing a big game to overwhelm him needs work from the manager as much as he need miles in the tank or on the training ground.
I really believe that Ireland can play as well in qualifying fixtures as they do in friendly games with the right mix of organisation and encouragement. And I believe it is absolutely crucial that Poland are met with the same movement, ambition and fluency we saw at times against America.
A retreat into a managerial game of chess and tactics will stifle the good things Ireland possess and after losing to Scotland, it is certain now that three points must be banked from the Poland game.