Martin O'Neill

MON: Match fitness vital

by Stuart Vose

Under-21 game key for boss.

Martin O’Neill is keen to have every member of his senior squad in tip-top condition as the Barclays Premier League pace continues to ramp up.

O’Neill has named five members of the first-team squad in the travelling party as the development squad take on Newcastle United on Tyneside tonight.

A maximum of three overage outfield players can feature, with Matt Kilgallon, Louis Saha and David Vaughan all included.

Meanwhile Connor Wickham and Ji Dong-won are also set to feature but don’t count against the quota due to their age.

All five will be looking to get more match fitness under their belts – something O’Neill says is of vital importance with the gruelling winter months ahead.

“Over a number of games everyone is going to be required to play a part,” he said.

“The ruling is we can play three overage outfield players, and the senior players selected all wanted to play in the game.

“They all wanted to participate, realizing how important match fitness is. We’ve had the chance to see that at close quarters in recent games.

“The players are getting to grips with things and it’s a long season.”