Wednesday 22 November 2017

'I'd take that with a pinch of salt' - Martin O'Neill on reports of unrest in the Austria camp

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during a press conference at the FAI National Training Centre in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill during a press conference at the FAI National Training Centre in Dublin. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

MARTIN O'NEILL says he is taking reports that Sunday's World Cup opponents Austria are in turmoil with a pinch of salt.

His opposite number Marcel Koller is under pressure ahead of the Dublin game after a poor start to their campaign and he has challenged his squad to prove their commitment to the cause.

That came after Red Bull Salzburg left-back Andreas Ulmer opted to miss the qualifier because it clashed with the weekend of his wedding.

It's a problem position for Koller with star man David Alaba adamant that he wants to play in midfield.

The Austrian supremo also has issues in the goalkeeping department with Ramazan Ozcan concentrated on his club career and a couple of alternative ruled out by injury. It means that Eintracht Frankfurt's Heinz Lindner is only the squad member with international experience. His last competitive outing was a 2-2 draw with Ireland in March 2013.

But O'Neill is wary of getting sucked into the belief that the away camp have problems.

"I'd take that with a pinch of salt," said O'Neill. "I've heard that countless times over the years and it's the exact opposite when you get on the field of play.

"They didn't cover themselves in glory in the Euros, but their qualification was fantastic. I'd have thought they would have a point to prove. They have to come and try and win the game to get into this and I still feel they're a top quality nation."

David McGoldrick is O'Neill's only concern ahead of Sunday with the injury prone striker - who is unlikely to figure anyway - troubled with a knee complaint.

O'Neill indicated on Sunday that he faced a decision between first choice goalkeeper Darren Randolph and Keiren Westwood but stressed that he was unwilling to get into that debate.

However, he reiterated his view that places are up for grabs with Harry Arter pushing for midfield involvement.

"I'm not going to be part of your debate," said O'Neill. "I have some choices to make. It's good for the Republic of Ireland itself because that's what we always wanted, we didn't want people stepping into the side and thinking they own it for the next couple of years.

"I'm not part of the speculation. I've been in this game a fairly lengthy period of time. I've made some big calls during my time here and that's part of my job."

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