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O'Shea: We need to do basics first on the field


MARTIN O'NEILL will give his players the freedom to express themselves whenever the opportunity arises, but he believes that they and Ireland must earn the right to do so.

The ability to defend well will not be sacrificed to please the purists and only when it is appropriate will O'Neill encourage his men to play it as they see it.

"My approach is relatively simple. We're at home we want to go and attack Serbia and give the fans something to cheer about. The onus is on us to attack. Freedom of expression? To some degree and eventually you would like to win the game," he said.

"In terms of style and pattern of play, hopefully that will evolve between now and September. Regardless of entertainment, the entertainment might be down to some of the attacking players. I would still like them to be strong at the back. The last thing you want to do is create a few chances, take them and you find you're not strong enough defensively."

A key man for O'Neill in that regard will be skipper John O'Shea, wounded by the recent defeat in the League Cup final but keen to get stuck into the international arena again.

He agrees that Ireland can do more with the ball but like his boss, hauled back on any suggestion that under O'Neill, anything goes. He wasn't a bit happy with the use of the word 'freedom'.

"As a defender, you don't want to hear it too much? Look, I probably know the type of performances that the manager is going to be looking for. He wants the players to use their own naturally ability, natural instincts to go and attack players, to go and take people on in the right areas," said O'Shea.

"Believe me, he is not telling people to take people on in our own 18-yard box. He wants to keep clean sheets. We know how important they are, especially coming up to a qualifying campaign.

"But the natural progression in terms of players expressing themselves will be a major part in a successful campaign because you need that explosion to create a goal, to cause teams damage, and that will be a big part in the campaign going forward," added O'Shea.


O'Neill too sounded a note of caution: "These are easy words, for me to talk about freedom here this afternoon.

"But it's much harder to achieve. I always felt as a player that international football, remarkably, was not as quick. It was slower. More defined. You have to be more calculating."

O'Neill believes that with Robbie Keane having a day off, Shane Long has a perfect opportunity to step up and make his claim.

"If Shane Long comes through in manner in which he is capable of doing – terrific. Robbie will not be around forever but you never know," he said with a laugh.

"He is still as excited as ever. He wants to play. He said himself he feels like a new man now that his heel injuries have cleared up," added O'Neill.