O'Neill insists Republic of Ireland will not try to light Mitrovic's short fuse

05 September 2017 08:24

Martin O'Neill has insisted the Republic of Ireland will not attempt to light Aleksandar Mitrovic's short fuse as they attempt to rekindle their World Cup bid against Serbia.

The 22-year-old Newcastle striker is currently serving his third three-match domestic ban on Tyneside after admitting elbowing Manuel Lanzini during the Magpies' 3-0 Premier League victory over West Ham.

However, only Romelu Lukaku, Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski have scored more goals than his six in the European qualifying competition to date and O'Neill has not needed to consult club-mate Ciaran Clark about him.

He said: "First of all, I think he's a very talented player. When you say he divides opinion, that certainly might be to do with some of things he does on the pitch, maybe off ball.

"But at the end of the day, he's a talented player and that talent would be my concern more than anything else.

"I think he's proved himself a really good player, but he has his moments of indiscretion. But if you're asking is it something we are going to do, to wind people up, I don't think that's in our nature.

"We'll just get on with the job and Ciaran, who knows him inside-out, hopefully, will be able to deal with that."

Ireland go into the game having slipped two points adrift of Serbia at the top of Group D as a result of their 1-1 draw in Georgia, which prompted concerted criticism back at home.

O'Neill has no issue with that - he admitted the first half in Tbilisi was as poor as his team had played in the campaign - but was quick to remind their detractors of what had gone before.

He said: "As a manager, that's my responsibility, what happens on the field, and I take that.

"After the Scotland game in November time, it was a month after we had drawn against Germany in Germany and we lost that game and it was doom and gloom; we drew with Scotland in June the following year and it was doom and gloom.

"We were the ones that went to the Euros and performed very, very well. If we'd have had another two or three of days of preparation after we had beaten Italy, we may well have turned France over. It's very possible, who knows?

"We have gone on now from this to remain unbeaten. We haven't lost a competitive game here, despite some poor 25 minutes, half-hours, even 45 minutes, as it was the other night, we remain unbeaten in the competition, so those sort of things, yes, keep you going."

Source: PA