Simon Grayson admits on-pitch combination Paul Connolly and Robert Snodgrass are made of the right stuff.
The pair have dovetailed impressively for Leeds United since right-back Connolly’s re-introduction to the Whites side for the 1-0 victory over Portsmouth on October 1.
And Grayson’s feels the Scouser’s presence on the right flank of defence has had a positive spin-off effect in terms of the impressive recent form of Snodgrass, hoping to claim his fifth international cap for Scotland in tonight’s friendly against Cyprus in Larnaca.
On whether Snodgrass’ impressive displays are partly due to steady influence of Connolly, the United boss acknowledged: “It’s no coincidence.
“Paul’s been very steady at this club and he’s experienced. He doesn’t do things that make people say ‘flipping hell, that’s a great ball’ and he doesn’t produce big overlapping runs, but he’s very solid and that’s what you want from your defenders.
“If he gives Snod the ball and backs him up then he’s doing his job because first and foremost he’s a defender. He’s a good communicator and a captain-type and he’ll probably be talking Snod through certain situations more than a less experienced player like (say) Tom Lees would.
“He (Snodgrass) didn’t get a full pre-season and that didn’t help. It took him a little bit of time to get up to speed and he’s had a couple of little injury problems since then. But it’s been hard for him too because the opposition see him
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as a major player for us and everyone is doubling up on him.”
Loan players Darren O’Dea and Andy Keogh, part of Giovanni Trappatoni’s 26-man squad currently in Estonia ahead of the Republic of Ireland’s crunch Euro 2012 play-off first leg clash, are both aiming for some international involvement in Tallinn this evening.
Defender O’Dea missed United’s matches against Blackpool and Leicester after going off with blurred vision in the 1-1 home draw with Cardiff City on October 30, but he travelled out to the Baltic with his international colleagues on Wednesday after training in the first half of this week and being assessed by doctors.
It’s a massive ninety minutes for the Boys in Green this evening and O’Dea admits the pain is still raw after Ireland’s heart-breaking and infamous World Cup play-off loss to France in 2009, when they were cheated out of qualification following a Thierry Henry handball.
O’Dea said: “I’d be lying if I said we don’t all still think about what happened in France. It affected the whole country. We were so close to beating France and reaching the World Cup, but it was snatched away.
“There is still pain and I doubt if it will ever leave us, but hopefully that memory will spur us on. What happened against France left a bitter taste, but we don’t want to let that happen again.”
On what it would make if Ireland made next summer’s international finals, he added: “I remember I was just a kid in 1994 (when Ireland got to the World Cup) but it was a brilliant summer. Everyone in my street took turns to have barbecues when the games were on and it was just a party.
“It was the same in 2002, the whole country came to a standstill to get behind the team. It would be so special if we managed to get to a major finals again after 10 years, it would be a dream.”