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Thursday 13 December 2018

'We have to take game by scruff of the neck'

James McClean
James McClean

Martin O'Neill fears that the players in his Republic of Ireland squad lack the "character" to impose their game on the international stage.

O'Neill's side are now on a run of just one win in 10 games, and have failed to score in the last three outings, the most recent display being that awful performance in the scoreless draw at home to a vibrant (and unlucky) Northern Ireland on Thursday night.

One point from three games in the Nations League leaves the side poised for relegation in that tournament, harming our seeding for the Euro 2020 draw, and morale was low as the squad boarded their plane today bound for Aarhus ahead of Monday's Nations League qualifier.

O'Neill confirmed that he will make changes, at least three enforced as James McClean (suspended) and Glenn Whelan (retired) drop out of the squad (though McClean still plans to travel to Denmark) along with Sean Maguire, who faces a month on the sidelines with a hamstring injury sustained on Thursday night.

Some changes, then, but not wholesale ones as he relies on the group already in place, even though this squad are clearly struggling. "I think that's right," O'Neill said when asked if he was frustrated that his players do not play with more personality.

Tactics

"It's something we have talked about for some considerable time and I agree with you. It's not to do with tactics, it is to do with taking the game by the scruff of the neck and being that character to do that.

"I think that's it, taking a bit more responsibility for a situation and being able to deal with it. Seamus Coleman may have mentioned earlier about translating what we do in training into the big game.

"That's it. The training has gone exceptionally well this week but it's being able to translate that and take that decent play, more than decent play on the training ground, into the game.

"That is easier said than done. I've known a lot of players who are very decent on the training ground and have never been able to translate it into the big games, but that is something we have to work on," added the 66-year-old.

No goals in three games in a serious concern and the Ireland manager admits he sees no way for that to end.

"I would like to have thought we could have found a wee bit more going forward," he says of the no-goal effort against the North.

"Maybe if we had got an established goal scorer, if that's the case, but it hasn't been. It's certainly been a disappointing year in that aspect, no question about it and we have to regroup.

"The bigger picture is the Euro qualifiers. There is no question about that, regardless of what happens on Monday night.

"I think we will be ready for it. I'm hoping one or two of the young lads in and around the scene, who have only played a couple of games, can come through."

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