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Duff And Ireland To Do It

Ireland to win 2-1 in Basel, says Tony Cascarino.

Tony Cascarino, 10 Oct 2003

As long as we approach it right and there are no last minute injury worries, I’m confident that we can get all three points from the Switzerland game. I haven’t checked the odds yet, but I fancy a few quid on 2-1 and Damien Duff as the first goal-scorer.

The line-up I’d go for – and the one I think Brian Kerr might well pick after our poor showing against Russia – is Damien on the right, Kevin Kilbane on the left and Robbie Keane and Gary Doherty up front. I know he was left out of the Spurs squad at the weekend because he was ill, but if Gary’s okay I think he’ll cause the Swiss defence problems with his physical presence. He’s the closest thing Ireland has at the moment to a Niall Quinn, and we all remember how effective he was at stirring things up in the penalty box.

The only thing I’d have done differently to Brian, squad-wise, was to have brought the Celtic lad, Liam Miller, along with me as another attacking option. If he’s confident enough to come off the bench and score a Champions’ League goal, he’s confident enough to play for Ireland in a big qualifying game. I probably wouldn’t have him in my starting line-up, but in need of a goal with 10 or 15 minutes to go, he could do a job. I got slung in at the deep end in ‘85 when, funnily enough, we last had to go to Switzerland looking for a win. With the game ending 0-0 we didn’t get it, but I was too fired up making my debut to feel nervous.

The great thing about Liam Miller, apart from his obvious ability, is that he’s got Martin O’Neill looking after him. Spurs fans are living in cloudcuckooland if they think he’s going to leave Celtic when they’re top of the Scottish league and have a chance of progressing in Europe. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will return to the Premiership, but only with a club that can genuinely challenge for the title.

I spoke a couple of weeks ago about Glen Hoddle ‘losing’ the dressing room – well, Martin’s the complete opposite. As is Brian Kerr who obviously has the respect of all the Ireland lads, especially the younger ones who know him from their Under-18 days. He got a little bit of flak after the Russia game, which was unfair and ignored things like him affecting the outcome of games with substitutions. When he’s needed to turn games around, he has done, and hopefully Saturday will be no different. Rather than leaving it to the last 20 or 30 minutes to nick something, I think he’ll go looking for an early goal and then keep hitting them on the counter.

It was interesting to hear that in the run up to games, he gives each of the players a DVD featuring both their own and their opponent’s last game. We certainly didn’t get anything like that with Jack who stuck the odd video on the TV but wasn’t too pushed whether you watched it or not.

You might get a few locals standing outside the hotel with their cow-bells, but the reception Ireland get in Switzerland won’t be anywhere near as hostile as the one awaiting England in Turkey. When I played my last international game there with Ireland, we had bricks and all sorts thrown at our bus on the way to the stadium. Of course, it was just as lively on the pitch with yours truly getting a wallop towards the end. I never knew I could take a punch till that game! If Beckham and Owen are both fit they’ll get a draw, if they’re not I can see Turkey doing them 1-0.

I don’t feel it’s right to comment about the alleged rape incident in London until all the facts are known, but, in general, you can’t blame clubs for what their players get up to after games. What are they supposed to do – tag them like parole prisoners? As naïve and downright idiotic as they sometimes are, players are adults who can’t be watched over 24/7. I’m not condoning bad behaviour – how could I, given some of the things I used to get up to? – but the pressure on players nowadays is tenfold what it was in my day.

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