Sport European Championships

Saturday 30 August 2014

Steven Reid: Martin and Roy must bring the bite back to Fortress Lansdowne

Steven Reid

Published 15/11/2013 | 01:00

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Republic of Ireland's Shane Long

TELEVISION has made me angry this week. It's hard to flick between the sports channels without catching a repeat of my run-in with Ramires that robbed us of a win at Chelsea last Saturday. The fact that we've to wait until after the international break for another game to get it out of the system makes it that little bit harder to forget the referee's decision.

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Switching on Roy Keane's press conference on Wednesday provided a welcome distraction from the lingering disappointment. Trust me, the fascination that exists outside the game about Roy is shared within it. I know that anyone who has encountered Roy over the years will have sat down to have a look at what he had to say.

In fact, I'm sure the lads in the Irish squad would have kept an eye on it too. As ever, it seemed like the whole room was intrigued and captivated by his presence.

The most interesting aspect was his admission that he had learned from the mistakes he made as a manager and that he might have to change one or two things. But I also enjoyed the humour too, the quips about the training gear. As well as being the hard man that we all know he is, there's always a bit of comedy value with Roy as well.

HOGGED

I can understand why he's hogged a lot of the attention this week, and it's clear from the training ground pictures that he's going to be prominently involved from the coaching side of things. From the player's point of view, it's often the case that the assistant is the member of management they interact with most in the first couple of days in camp.

As the game draws closer, however, the manager starts to take over and I'd expect the squad will be hearing more of Martin O'Neill's voice today. He'll be hammering home his message about the tactical approach and team shape, although I'm sure that the players will be going out there determined to prove themselves to Keane as well.

What can be changed from Giovanni Trapattoni's time?

I read the other day that Martin is keen to do his homework on players who qualify under the grandparent rule that might have slipped under the radar. Perhaps there's a couple out there, but, broadly, I think the group he's working with this week will form the basis of his panel for the Euros.

Injuries aside, the obvious exception is Stephen Ireland, who is talking about coming back again, although, at this stage, I think the movement has to come from the player. He is improving and he's starting to recapture his Manchester City form, which would make him a great asset. But the desire to come back has to come from his side. It's black or white for me. Do you want to come back into the team or don't you?

Aside from the personnel, the biggest change I would like to see is the spirit around home games.

Martin has alluded to the poor record at the Aviva and it's clear we need an approach to the game that helps make the new ground as intimidating as the old Lansdowne.

All the lads speak highly of the Aviva, with the top-class facilities, ice baths, changing-rooms, everything you'd expect. But, in my time with Ireland, we loved the dilapidated element of our place, knowing that the opposition would hate it, especially in bad weather. Throw in the enthusiasm of the crowd and it worked in our favour.

In the last days of the Trapattoni era, you get the sense that the away sides were enjoying coming to the Aviva too much.

To make home advantage meaningful, you have to be on the front foot from the word go, press hard and aggressive, and defend from the front with high intensity. At West Brom, we want to let teams know early on that they're in for a battle at the Hawthorns. Once you build that platform, you hope the quality players shine through. Be it Wes Hoolahan, Shane Long (below), or whoever is preferred.

I doubt that Martin and Roy will stand for a leisurely opening tonight. They're not going to settle for a team which stands off and lets other teams play, and neither will the fans that are back on board because of the excitement brought about by the fresh appointments.

I know the results in the next two games don't mean very much; the consistent message from Martin has been that it's all about building towards next September. That said, I'm expecting this game to have more bite than your average November friendly and, hopefully, set the tone for the road ahead. It might even help to cheer me up.

Irish Independent

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