Give us a break – O’Neill

As snow fell on Wearside with the 59-year-old and his players

finalising their preparations for Sunday’s Premier League trip to

Tottenham, he extolled the benefits of the system he encountered

during his time in Scotland. O’Neill said: “My personal view is

that I would love to see it happen, even for a week or two because

psychologically, I believe when you start off the season, it’s

pretty long and it gives you something to think about during that

time. “Even if it was only for a fortnight, I think

psychologically, it would help everyone, that’s my view. “When we

were in Scotland, I experienced it twice in the five years I was

there and one of those years, Celtic reached the UEFA Cup final. I

didn’t think it was a coincidence myself. “That’s my own view. I

have always felt that – still play your new year games, still have

that, still have the old tradition of playing Christmas and new

year, but after the third round of the FA Cup, maybe take a break

then. “Psychologically, it would be brilliant for Premier League

players, and also as Sir Alex Ferguson says, players get tired at

the end of the season and are then expected to play in either the

big European Championships or the World Cup. “I think it would

help.” Spurs boss Harry Redknapp might have wished for a break over

the next few weeks after testing his squad to the full with the

club fighting for honours on both the domestic and European fronts,

although their Europa League adventure drew to a close on Thursday

evening despite victory over Shamrock Rovers. Redknapp fielded a

much-changed side throughout the group stage of the competition,

but O’Neill, who was criticised during his time in charge at Aston

Villa for resting key players for a fatal UEFA Cup defeat by CSKA

Moscow in Russia in February 2009, understands why he did it. He

said: “There was much made when I was at Aston Villa of the fact

that we fielded a weakened team in the final 32 in Russia in a

game, much made of that. “We were vying at that stage for third or

fourth in the Premier League, and it wasn’t to say we were in the

last eight, there were still 32 teams left in the competition. “We

did lose the game and of course, you suffer accordingly. “It was

interesting, Harry’s comments afterwards saying perhaps, even with

the squad he has at his disposal at the moment, that he suggested

perhaps if they had gone strongly in every single game in the

Europa League that they may well still have qualified, but they

might not have won the number of Barclays Premier League games that

they have.”