Monday 11 December 2017

Keane: Ireland places up for grabs

Roy demands professional approach against minnows

Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane speaks to the media at Abbotstown
Republic of Ireland assistant manager Roy Keane speaks to the media at Abbotstown

It's hard to get worked up about Gibraltar but Roy Keane never wavers, never allows minnow-inspired complacency to creep into his language.

The upcoming double-header against Gibraltar and Georgia takes place against a backdrop of frantic excitement in the All-Ireland football championship and Ireland's final rugby World Cup warm-up against England but Keane seems to have blanked it all out.

The transfer market too passed him by and he paid no heed to the drama unfolding around David de Gea at Old Trafford or if he did, he didn't feel the need to chat about it.

Between moving to a new training home, a new hotel and the usual bump and grind of preparation for a qualifying game, Keane has had enough to think about.

"Hopefully when I look back on my career I will try and treat every team the same with respect. Just talking there, there is a lot of experience in our dressing room, an experienced manager and the one thing we won't do is take our eye off the ball in terms of training," he said.

Turn Up

"I don't think we can just turn up and win a game of football as it doesn't pan out that way. We've seen clips of Gibraltar, particularly when they're at home.

"They can cause problems as they have a bit of pace and honesty in their team. They have scored the odd goal here and there, created chances against Germany and we know we can't take our eye off the ball.

"They probably see that as the best way of scoring, when they do go on the counter attack, they go with numbers and pace and energy, whatever you say about them. They have had their moments where they have given bad goals away but whatever you say about the players they do have a go and try and score.

"It's not as if they sit in and think 'well maybe'. If they get an opportunity they get forward with pace and numbers. They look like a real honest team and that's why different games can provide different challenges.

"Obviously the problem we'll have in the next few days is people asking how many goals can you score, blah blah blah. First and foremost, we have to turn up, do a proper job and be professional and try win the game of football and take it from there.

"We just have to see what happens with our two games. When the draw was made and the games were decided, everyone probably looked at this weekend and said it was the crunch time to make up the few points we dropped against Scotland, if they can slip up we will wait and see.

"We nearly slipped up in Georgia so we know it can happen. When I said professionals, we're professionals and all you can do as professionals is just focus on the next game. You can't be bogged down by what might happen on Monday or by other teams, it would be a crazy thing to do.

"Any time we've watched them the last few days and we've looked at clips, they have improved, definitely and sometimes you have to have some harsh lessons in football.

"So I wouldn't be one for saying these teams don't deserve to be in a group with ourselves and Germany and Poland. You could say that about ourselves. Give us a couple of easier groups," he laughed.

Keane believes that this week is an opportunity for players to more than just impress Martin O'Neill in training. With some players struggling to find match minutes, the Corkman expects the attitude to be spot-on regardless.

"I always think as a professional footballer you're sending a message to your club manager every day of the week. The way you train, the way you behave around the training ground, how you speak to the staff, how you treat the younger players at the club.

"I don't necessarily think the players here are going to make a big shout-out to their club managers. The club managers probably know them better than us.

"But if I wasn't playing regularly I'd turn up thinking this is an opportunity to get a game, I'm pretty sure there's places up for grabs.

"When we're training this week that's what we're saying to the players.

"Every day I say to them: 'Listen, impress the manager'. What most managers and staff do then is go back to the hotel and chat about the training, who's doing well, who's looking sharp, who has a good attitude, who's making it impossible to be left out.

"We've had a good day today, good tempo to it, and lads have said, 'Listen I want to play on Friday night'. Which is what the game of football is about."

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