O'Neill: 'I didn't see any reason to change captaincy'

Paul Hyland

MARTIN O'NEILL has given Robbie Keane the green light to continue as Ireland captain and if at all possible, keep banging in the goals for his country.

"I'm hoping for that. He's a natural goalscorer, his record is fantastic, really, really fantastic, really brilliant," said O'Neill, slightly embarrassed by the fact that Keane was sitting beside him.

"There are players who have played for reputedly better teams and they have nowhere near the record he as."

O'Neill is happy to leave the issue of the Ireland captaincy for another day but it is obvious that he feels that Keane fulfils all the required criteria to lead his country.

"I think leadership is the most important quality and respect from the other players. I didn't see any reason to change anything.

"Robbie has been the captain of the team and from the manner the players are enthused by it, I didn't see any reason to change it.


"Somewhere down the line there may be changes. If he's playing brilliantly and scoring goals for us, I'll be delighted.

"If he says, I want to enjoy it and relinquish the captaincy, I will listen to that."

O'Neill gave away little detail about his approach to his first game as Ireland boss and was happy to admit that he doesn't have much to tell anyone until he settles into the job.

"We haven't done a great deal. We did some training in the last couple of days.

"It's a matter of me trying to familiarise myself with some of the players I didn't really know.

"They've given a great response and I'm delighted with that. They were very enthusiastic but maybe you would expect that with a new manager coming in.

"I think the overiding theme, and I'm not giving away secrets, is to press high up the pitch if we can do and try to win the ball nearer to their goal.

"It's a great thought in theory but maybe a different thing in practice. I'd like to get some enjoyment out of it and for me, the most enjoyment is when you win a game.


"Really, I am genuinely looking forward to it. I'm really excited about it. I've been helped a lot by the response of the players.

"Results are important. It would be nice to get off to a good start and win some football matches. But there will be an element of experimentation and I'd like to give some who don't play some time in Poland.

"By the time we get around to September, inevitably, there will be some changes, there might one or two young players that nobody here has heard of coming through.

"I don't want the players to treat them as friendlies. They are very, very important games for us.

"This is a bit like, I would have treated pre-season. If I was going into a football club, pre-season became very important.

"I had to make judgements on players and I feel the same about these games coming up."