Ireland clash with Italy unlikely to prove a sell-out

Ireland clash with Italy unlikely to prove a sell-out

IRELAND’s friendly against Italy this Saturday is unlikely to be a sold-out affair with only between 16,000 and 17,000 tickets sold so far for the game at London’s Craven Cottage.

A spokesman for Fulham Football Club - who are hosting the fixture - said they expect that figure to swell to between 18,000 and 20,000 by the weekend, which would still be well short of the stadium's 25,700 capacity.

The figures show that Irish fans in Britain are yet to come out in force to see Martin O'Neill and Roy Keane's men perform, yet the attendance will still be significantly better than the last time Ireland played at Craven Cottage.

Back in September 2012, only 6,420 turned out to watch Giovanni Trapattoni's side beat Oman 4-1.

The Italian football association would also have expected the fixture to prove more attractive to their fans given the recent rise in Italian migrants coming to Britain and their side's upcoming World Cup campaign.

Tickets have been allocated equally to both nations, although the FAI could not confirm exactly how many will be attending the game from Ireland. Irish fans will, however, back the boys in green from the Putney End of the ground.

Martin O’Neill’s players will travel from their training base in Malahide, on the back of two successive home defeats, aiming to improve their fortunes against the 2006 World Cup winners.

On Sunday evening, O’Neill’s Ireland team suffered a disappointing 2-1 defeat by Turkey in front of a less than half-empty Aviva Stadium.

Some news outlets put the attendance figure at 15,000 - well shy of the maximum capacity of 51,700.

O'Neill's side also suffered a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Serbia in March.

The Ireland manager will be hoping that his players will step up their performance this weekend as they take on England’s 2014 World Cup group competitors, with the Italians likely to showcase a competitive display ahead of their international campaign.

O’Neill will be keen to use the clash against Italy to assess his 28 players and to figure out a definite game-plan ahead of Ireland’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

He revealed to The Irish Post this week that he and assistant manager Roy Keane enjoy a strong working relationship, but that a conflict of opinion between the pair would not alter his own views on the players.

“I have been able to bounce ideas off him, asked him what his view is and it might just have differed somewhat from what I thought and might have made me start to think a bit in a different direction, for good or bad,” O’Neill told The Irish Post.

“It would not necessarily change my opinion. We would have different opinions on players in general but overall he has been great to work with. His enthusiasm is fairly unswerving.

The former Aston Villa manager also revealed that whilst the managerial pair are both based in England, for the most part they perform their roles independently outside of training and match preparation.

“To a large extent, when we are going about our week-to-week business of watching games, we just leave each other alone,” O’Neill added.

“We’d speak on the phone regularly enough and would meet up every now and then in Birmingham — a kind of half-way-point between my house and his.

“Both of us have found the job a little strange because we have been used to day-to-day jobs at club level. This has been less intense for the most part — but all that will change this week.”