Sunday 25 September 2016

Wilson trains his sights on row Z as he vows to cut out 'sloppy goals'

Published 04/06/2015 | 02:30

Marc Wilson during training at the Aviva Stadium yesterday
Marc Wilson during training at the Aviva Stadium yesterday

Perhaps this is why Ireland do much of their business behind closed doors.

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Marc Wilson explains that his men were working on defensive clearances.

It was a task made easier by some of the worst deliveries seen since Edward Scissorhands tried his hand at a paper round; some of those that are arrowed in the right direction are fitfully lobbed away with weak headers.

All the while, Martin O'Neill potters around the sideline while Roy Keane loiters with seemingly little intent by the Havelock Square end goal.

Still, the open session a wonderful chance for the Irish fans, young and old, to get close to their heroes and, for a short while at least, narrow the vast chasm that sadly exists these days between the professional footballer and his paying public.

Eclipsed

Indeed, the crowd of 1,500 arguably eclipsed the crowd that were forced to pay in the last time Ireland met Northern Ireland, as they do today behind closed doors.

"If you were in watching it, it would drive you insane," O'Neill says, referring to how he will chop and change his ideas today but, really, we didn't need convincing.

Scotland is all that matters and, hence, the preparations must be clinical. At this stage of O'Neill's tenure, all talk of style is redundant; his public demand substance.

"With sessions like we have just done, balls being crossed into the box, defending, (it's about) getting the guys to talk and communicate," Wilson says, outlining the defensive blueprint.

"Communication is very important and if we can get that good communication throughout the back, from the goalkeeper out across the back four, it helps us tremendously.

"It's different to club level. You don't play with the lads week, in week out, but the more times you play with a person the better understanding you have."

A result today is not critical, and for Wilson it is an opportunity to meet up with old friends. Manchester United's mis-firing defender Jonny Evans, and his brother Corey, were once Lisburn colleagues, but the man who could have played for Northern Ireland himself doesn't expect any rough treatment.

"They could do," Wilson smiles. "But at the end of the day, although we want to get a result, the most important thing for us is to get the three points against Scotland."

He is determined that, although he merely had a watching brief from the Parkhead stands due to injury, when Ireland lost in Scotland in November, O'Neill's men won't commit the mortal football sin of conceding from a dead ball.

"You can never say never," he says. "Strange things happen in football. We know we've got to cut sloppy goals out. That's what we're working at on the training ground.

"We'll be doing a bit of video analysis, watching Scotland a lot because we know that their wide men deliver a lot of crosses into the box. That's something we have to think about but the manager over the next period of time will have that drilled into us.

"But at the end of the day if you're defending, then your number one job is to defend. Here in the Ireland squad, if the ball's gotta go, if it's got to go into row Z, there's nothing wrong with that."

Which is what he or Robbie Brady should have done against Poland. . .

"Yeah, thinking about it, obviously yeah. But it's over and done with and we've spoken about it. So we'll know next time."

The question hangs in the air, so too O'Neill's reluctance to place Ireland in the same exalted company as England. Some might have suggested Northern Ireland, too, given their current form.

Irish Independent

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