sport

O'Neill: I won't interfere

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has vowed not to meddle in his players' club affairs.

O'Neill made the move to the international arena after 25 years in domestic football when he was named as Giovanni Trapattoni's successor last month.

The nature of role is unlike anything he has taken on before and he must wait until the visit of Serbia on March 5 to see his squad again.

In that time he and assistant Roy Keane plan to take in as many games as they can to assess the players available to them.

Given the size of squads carried by most top teams and the continued rise of overseas players, that can be a frustrating enterprise but O'Neill has no intention of telling people to leave in search of first-team football.

O'Neill was disappointed at to see Wes Hoolahan left out on a scouting trip to Norwich on Sunday - not the first time that has happened to him this season - but he believes dishing out transfer advice to players would be counterproductive.

"At times you are going to matches and you're not sure if the player will be playing," he said. "I went to see Wes hoping he might get on or start the game but that is his manager's prerogative.

"I would never ask a manager beforehand (about selection) to save me a journey.

"And there was nothing that irritated me more as a club manager than to find out a couple of my players, who I'd fallen out with, had international managers saying 'he should move'. It's none of your business.

"It was really irritating. The last thing I want to do is to be running around telling Wes he should do this or that.

"I won't be telling someone to go on loan for my benefit. The club would just ignore it.

"You would love your players to be playing pretty regularly because they're getting that competitive feeling all the time, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't pick someone I think has the ability because they hadn't played for four or five weeks."

O'Neill also had words of encouragement for talismanic striker Robbie Keane.

Keane is not only the owner of 131 caps and a record 62 goals for the country, but also the current captain.

He was rested from the starting line-up for O'Neill's second game in charge against Poland and at 33 years old, with a domestic career out of the spotlight in Major League Soccer, his future is a regular point of debate.

But O'Neill does not appear minded towards any drastic decisions at present.

Asked if Keane was still first-choice skipper, he said: "At this moment, if the first (Euro 2016) qualifier was tomorrow I wouldn't see why not.

"Lots of things can happen in that time but I'm not really one for wanting to change. Robbie has been captain of the side.

"There's a whole lifetime between now and the qualifiers in September but if he was strong and fit and I had the same players available, he would be my captain."