Martin O'Neill, Ireland

Exclusive: O’Neill: Scotland should avoid knee-jerk reaction

Ireland boss Martin O’Neill says Scotland need to avoid a knee-jerk reaction after failing to qualify for Euro 2016 as the margins at elite level are so fine.

Scotland had the edge over Ireland in the double header but O’Neill’s men came from behind in the qualifying campaign to finish in the play-off spot at the expense of the Scots following an impressive away victory over world champions Germany.

Ireland sealed their place at France next summer after a play-off victory over Bosnia, while Scotland’s exit at the qualifying stage prompted much soul searching in the game.

However, O’Neill says no drastic action is required to alleviate Scotland from the disappointment of missing out on another tournament.

“Sometimes there is a knee-jerk reaction to things,” he told PLZ Soccer.

“The dividing line between success and failure is so tight.

“For instance, at one point in the game when Scotland had gone 2-1 up against Poland they were actually through and we might have been the ones asking questions about ourselves so it is tight.

“It would have been really disappointing for us to have had those results against Germany and not gone through but it’s what happens over the 10 matches.

“I think Scotland played a fine game.

“I think ourselves included would like to find someone who can find the net more often than we do.

“We’ve got an older Robbie Keane if he was 27 I’d be absolutely delighted.

“He’s been a fantastic captain for us but we’re looking for another Robbie Keane to come up and score goals on a regular basis.

“Scotland might feel the same: they have nice build up play, they score a few goals although I think [Steven] Fletcher is a very fine player but it’s easy from this side of the table at the minute to say meaningless things.

“Everybody has to look at themselves when qualification hasn’t been made I think that’s a natural process but it looks as if Scotland are on the right lines.”

O’Neill says despite failing to beat Scotland in both encounters, he never thought they were out of contention.

“I never felt after four matches that this was a moment to panic. In June, I never felt we were out with it. We were two points behind Scotland. They had the better head-to-head so it was effectively three points that they had to make up. I never felt that was insurmountable because there were still tough games to play.”

O’Neil stressed how important it is for both countries to develop younger talent in the quest to make their respective national teams better.

“At grassroots level in Ireland there’s a genuine attempt to get young players playing, enjoying it and actually improving their skills. I think that is very, very important.

“It might not happen in this generation but maybe in the next one you would like to think a group of Irish players can step onto any pitch in European football and world level and feel they can pass and manoeuvre the ball and be as comfortable with it as the opposition.

“But not to lose that great Irish spirit as well. but it doesn’t take you everywhere but it does help in moments of crisis. I think I’ve restored confidence to the side and I think I’ve given them belief that they can compete.

“I’m not saying the German result proves everything but it is kind of a marker which suggests that we’re trying to do something.”

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