Thursday 26 April 2018

Steven Reid: Our best tactic is Irish passion and aggression - we should use it

Shane Long – alongside team-mate Richard Keogh in training yesterday – is 17 games without a goal for club and country but Ireland must play to his strengths tonight Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Shane Long – alongside team-mate Richard Keogh in training yesterday – is 17 games without a goal for club and country but Ireland must play to his strengths tonight Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Steven Reid

Steven Reid

What is the most important attribute in an Ireland manager? It's a question I've been thinking about over the past week as the discussion about our style of play again became a major talking point.

Martin O'Neill is the man for now, of course, but in the aftermath of the draw in Serbia last month, the reaction seemed to be focused on our limitations in possession and the problem it posed.

Do we play attractive football? No. Do we pass the ball enough? Probably not. Do we need a manager capable of coaching our players into adopting a positive philosophy? I don't believe that we do. That is the crucial point. For me, the key strength required by Ireland's boss is their ability to motivate players that come together for a short period of time, perhaps even just for one or two proper days of training before a game.

I look at everything good that has happened over past year and I see where those qualities from O'Neill have shone through. The most important tactical weapon we've had in our locker is that Ireland are getting back to basics and doing all the things we are good at. Spirit, grit, passion.

The early Irish teams that I was involved in always had the right mentality because there were senior players on the pitch that were natural problem-solvers.

I find that today's generation aren't really as aware of what's happening on the pitch around them. This is something I've spotted at club level.

There is less communication between players about how to resolve difficulties if they are struggling. Younger lads can be in a bit of a daze; it's a generational thing. They're not as adept at taking control of the situation.

Irish teams relied on big, strong characters that knew their jobs inside out. I don't recall massive amounts of video analysis and looking at clips. It was about getting ourselves together and united, even if it meant meeting up a night before we supposed to for a night out.


Much as the game has changed, I think O'Neill has players that grasp the Irish way of doing things. The performances that have really impressed me are those where we've gone a bit more direct into Shane Long and played for second balls. Slow build-up play isn't necessary. It doesn't suit us. We are about aggression and intensity. That's when we look at our best.

If you have a manager that can motivate and inspire then it's more important than any coaching session or tactical information. Rather than an expert coach with no personality or man management skills, you require a manager that can make you run through brick walls. They can go further with Ireland. Football goes through cycles and the high press is popular at the moment. The principle of getting the ball into the opposition's half and working unbelievably hard to keep it there.

That's what happening in the Premier League now when you watch Tottenham and Liverpool and Man City and they are bringing managers in that are demanding that high tempo.

Yes, they might have more quality. But it is about focusing on getting into the opposition half. That's what excites fans and unsettles opposition teams and Ireland have players that can do that; Shane Long thrives on it. I want him to be prominent tonight.

But these are the type of matches that almost make me a bit apprehensive. The pressure is all on Ireland. Yes, Georgia are not quite the team they used to be in my opinion. But this is a game we should be expected to win, which is enough to set the alarm bells ringing in my head.

There were signs of a Euros hangover in Serbia. And, in contrast to the atmosphere of the summer, or even the Germany and Bosnia games around this time last year, the atmosphere will be different.

In a major tournament, the motivational side of things really shouldn't be too much of an issue. Lifting yourself for that is easy.

For this type of game against a lower-ranked nation, the fans will come anticipating entertainment but it won't be a sell-out and it can be a challenge to get the crowd going.

Sometimes, I feel we have become too cautious. We have got to start in a way that suits us instead of just waiting for something to happen.

Use our assets. We don't want Shane Long dropping into the number ten position and linking play. You want to get him in behind and chasing after the lost causes. You can play Robbie Brady in midfield and get him on the ball or else get Wes Hoolahan involved trying to slide balls into Longy.

This is a significant match for him. He's 17 games without a goal for club and country and, while I'm sure that will be on his mind, it's not as if his sole focus is putting the ball in the back of the net. With certain strikers, you find yourself wondering what exactly it is that they offer when they don't score.

Longy's work rate is phenomenal. Even when he's not scoring, he's having an influence and offers so much to a team.

He will be frustrated at the moment and the danger is that he starts snatching at things. Last season was fantastic for him. He reached double figures in the Premier League, his best ever return, and earned a new contract.

If Longy is to go to the next level, he needs to make that return the norm. I think he'd admit that himself.

Tonight would be the ideal opportunity to get his season back on track.

Irish Independent

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