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Cox admits competition is fierce for Swede spot

DESPITE the fact that he's one of Giovanni Trapattoni's most favoured sons, Simon Cox believes that he and other senior members of the Irish squad can no longer take for granted their place in the international set-up.

Nottingham Forest man Cox maintained his record of being almost an ever-present since he made his debut against Northern Ireland two years ago as he picked up his 22nd senior cap, coming on as a late sub for James McClean, in last week's win over Poland.

At least Cox was in the squad (unlike outcasts like Joey O'Brien and Stephen Kelly) and got some game time against the Poles (unlike Kevin Doyle and Andy Keogh), so his ten-minute cameo was welcome for the 25-year-old, who has appeared in all bar three of the games Ireland have played since his scoring debut.

And he believes that past efforts for Trapattoni will count for little when it comes to picking the squad for the World Cup qualifiers next month as players like Aiden McGeady, Keith Andrews and Seamus Coleman all eye up a return from injury in time for that trip to Sweden.

"It's going to be tough to get into the team and even the squad," Cox told the Evening Herald.

"If you look back at the Poland game, Conor Sammon did really well.

"He put himself about and created some problems for Poland and has put himself in the frame, so club form will be vital from now on.

"Just because you have been in the squad for a few years doesn't mean you can take your place in the squad for granted, you need to be doing well with your club to stay involved with Ireland.

"We are integrating new players into the squad all the time. We had three players making their debuts against Poland, and others like Greg Cunningham and Ciaran Clark are still quite new to international football, but I thought they were magnificent in the last game.

"It's pleasing for everyone as there is more competition now all through the squad and you have to be doing well to stay in the panel," added Cox, one of nine players from England's second tier to feature in the last outing.

"With Ireland we have a lot of players in the Championship now, we have to look everywhere for players and give people a chance.

"Friendly games are good as you can give the more senior players a rest, the way Keith Andrews, Robbie Keane and Darren O'Dea all missed the Poland game, and bring in some other players to get experience. In a qualifying campaign you need players who know what they are doing," added Cox.

"We have a big month ahead of us in March and we need a strong squad, but I think we can go to Sweden and get a result."