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We wont be treating these games as friendlies – ONeill ready for

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first_imgHE HAS ALREADY shown during his short time in charge that he enjoys the odd joke, but Martin O’Neill is under no illusions that the laughs will quickly dry up if Ireland aren’t getting the right results.O’Neill leads the Boys in Green into an international match for the very first time against Latvia at Lansdowne Road tonight before a meeting with Poland on Tuesday.And although he won’t have the opportunity to test himself in a competitive game until next September, the Derry native says he will not be treating the upcoming double header as friendlies.From a personal point of view, there is no doubt that he would love to get off to a winning start. Looking at the grand scheme of things, it is also vital for the team to put the disappointment of the last qualifying campaign behind them and two wins would help do just that.“I don’t want them to be treated as friendly games,” O’Neill said at his pre-match press conference yesterday.“It’s a bit like the way I would have treated pre-season. Every game becomes important because you have to make judgments on players. I feel the same about these matches coming up.“They are important, even though there isn’t a competitive point or two to be gained.”On paper, a Latvian side ranked 117th in the FIFA rankings shouldn’t cause Ireland a huge amount of trouble.With the experience of how his last job with Sunderland ended still clearly fresh in his mind however, O’Neill knows poor results over the next few months would soon see the optimism shown by fans this past week disappear. Bobby (Byrne, head of security) has been looking after me the last few days,” O’Neill explains. “I said it’s fine now but it’s after we lose a few games that I’ll need you.“It has been great but I’m well aware that this is the 10-minute honeymoon.”O’Neill oversees training last night. Credit: INPHO/James CrombieAfter what has been a whirlwind week for the new management team, O’Neill, who will name his team this evening, admits they haven’t had time to do a “huge amount” over the past four days but outlined the style he intends to play.“The overriding theme, without giving away too many secrets, is that I would like us to try and press reasonably high up the pitch. If we can win the ball closer to their goal it will give some of our ball players opportunities.“It’s a great thought in theory but maybe a different thing in practice. We’ll try and get some enjoyment out of it. For me the best enjoyment is to go win the game.“We’ll try and play with a bit of drive, enthusiasm, determination… all the things that I’m hoping you would expect from the side.”He was also quizzed about the fact that his strikers haven’t been in great form this season.“Shane Long scored last weekend,” he replied. “He got in front of everybody else and got a great jump to score the goal.“I know the game seems to be just full of stats nowadays. Stats for passing, stats for picking your nose. The important stats are scoring goals.I could have one or two players who statistically would be better than Xavi in their passing. But they wouldn’t actually be as good as Xavi. So the important stats are scoring goals.”Has he had time to study tonight’s opposition in detail?“Our statistician Brian (McCarthy) has given us a number DVDs that I’ve had a look at. He has only given me about 35!” he joked.“I think he thinks I’ve got more hours in the day than anybody else. He has been terrific and has narrowed it down. It’s good to have a knowledge of that.”O’Neill set to experiment in his first outing with IrelandCaption time: What are Roy and Robbie saying at Lansdowne Road this evening?last_img read more