AFTER A COUPLE of months spent attending games to track the progress of his new players, Roy Keane seemed excited to be getting back to the training ground yesterday.
Tomorrow sees Ireland play their first game of 2014 as Serbia come to town but he and Martin O’Neill will have to make the most of their time with the squad in what is a short international break.
Those scouting missions have given the assistant manager renewed hope that the talent is there to build a team capable of qualifying for the European Championships and being competitive at the finals in two years’ time.
“That we’ve got some good players,” responded Keane when asked what he has learned since taking the job.
Hopefully we will learn a lot over the next few months. I know managers get frustrated because you don’t get to work with the players that often but that’s the deal and we knew that when we came in here.
“We have two or three days this week and we’ll make the most of that. There will potentially be three or four games at the end of the season which will be a good chance to learn more about the players, particularly when you travel away from home and get a feel for the group.
“So much will happen in the next few months. Players will lose form, they could get bad injuries, so you almost have to not look too far ahead. With the draw it is a good chance for everyone to focus and for the fans as well who will be organising trips. I’m really looking forward to it.
“They will be very tough games for different reasons but I’ve always said to the players and every time I’ve been involved in Ireland you’ve got to believe you can win every football match and hopefully that’s what we can bring to the group.”
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On a day when Keane and O’Neill attended an event to mark the first phase of development on the FAI National Training Campus at Abbottstown with the likes of John Delaney and Minister Leo Varadkar, the former international captain spoke of their hopes to improve the state of Irish football.
The lack of new faces in the current squad has been mentioned over the past week but, according to Keane, change will take time. Apart from that, this crop of players deserve to show what they can do.
“It’s all part of the process of improving Irish football. Everyone keeps on about younger players but me and Martin have been in the door two minutes and it will obviously take a little bit of time and a bit of patience. But they’re all good signs since we’ve come back on board.
We’ve enjoyed it but it’s not a quick fix and we’ve got to look at some younger lads coming through whether it be the U21s or lads who mightn’t have been given a chance before.”
Keane has infamously aired his views on the FAI’s shortcomings in the past but put his differences to one side when he agreed to take the assistant’s role.
How have things changed from his playing days though?
“It is probably a bit more organised,” explained Keane. “Where do you want me to start? There’s a bit more staff on board, it’s a lot more organised, there’s more of a timetable, and small little details that are better and sharper.
“There is still stuff Martin and myself would like to tidy up. So there has been vast improvements, as you would hope with any organisation.
“Our job is to keep improving and there are all these details. We want to make life a lot easier for the players when they do turn up so they look forward to coming over.
“There’s no issues with, it could be anything — travel arrangements. We try and provide best for the players so when they go out to play that’s all they need to worry about and they don’t get sidetracked by any sort of politics shall we say.
“It’s a work in progress.”