Miller Issues Rallying Call
With European qualification not an impossibility, Joe Miller feels that Dundalk can gain some valuable experience from the visit of Club Atlético de Madrid this weekend. The Lilywhites face the Spanish giants in a friendly fixture at Oriel Park on Monday evening, and the former Aberdeen and Celtic winger, who has experience of playing on the European stage, says that the game could be useful in the long-term for both players and management.
“We have got a wee chance of a European spot, so if we do knuckle down and we manage to get a European spot, this will give the lads that wee bit of experience, albeit 90 minutes,” Miller told dundalkfc.com. “It will be that little taster of continental football that they’ve never experienced before. They might gain something from it, and if myself and Sean (Connor) can pick up things from the game and pick up things from Atlético Madrid, then we can only gain from the experience, and it’s the same for the players that are playing in it. They should enjoy the experience, and hopefully we can get a European spot and take that into that tie. It will be a great game and a great occasion.
“I’ll need to try to get the begging bowl out and ask Sean for a game, to see if I can feature and run riot for ten minutes,” he added with a smile. “In all seriousness, I think the game is a glamour friendly and it will be good for everybody to turn out in numbers and support the club. We need it to help the finances of the club and that is why these games get arranged. We could arrange raffles, quiz nights and do other things off the park to raise funds, but the majority of the time and the majority of money that comes into the club is through the gates, and you can get a lot of money from arranging a glamour friendly. We’re anticipating that we get a good crowd and that it helps raise the funds for the club to bring in good players and to keep the wages going, and to keep the players that are here at the club next year.”
Speaking on Dundalk’s chances of nailing down a place in the top four, which could be boosted depending on the future of Cork City, Miller said: “It’s in our hands. We have just got to wait and see what happens with other clubs. We don’t really want to dive into the running of their club and what’s going to happen to them. We’re not interested in their fate, we just need to be interested in what we’re going to do. It wouldn’t matter anyway, because the way we’re playing at the moment, I’m sure everyone would agree that we’re playing some terrific football, so long may that continue between now and the end of the season.”
He also insisted that the visit of Atlético will not take the squad’s eye of the ball in Richmond Park. “It won’t be a distraction,” he said. “We’re fully focussed on the game against St. Pat’s, and it’s up to myself and Sean on the training ground to take the boys’ eyes off the Atlético game and focus on the St. Pat’s game. They done well in Europe and we should learn from their experience, and you never know what can happen. Declan O’Brien has gone there and helped them out, so we feel that we’ve played a wee bit of a part in that! But in all seriousness, we want to do well in the St. Pat’s game and get further up the table, get as high as we can and get as many points as we can.
“I think it’s another hard game for us,” he added, “and it’s one we’ve got to win. We’ve just got to keep the momentum going. We have done well over the past five or six weeks. The boys are working hard in training, and what they’re doing in training they are taking on to the park, and I think the whole town has got a lift. The boys are playing well, so everything seems to be ticking along nicely.” After losing three games on the bounce, Dundalk have gone on an eye-catching run of six wins in seven games in all competitions. However, Miller always knew that a good run of form was just around the corner. “I seen it coming,” he said. “Once I kind of got my fingers into the pie, I kind of knew it was there for change. I had all the confidence in the boys that came over from Scotland to do well, and I also had the confidence that the boys in the dressing room would bounce off them and get a lift from their arrival.
“When you add quality to the dressing room, everybody gets a lift,” Miller added. “From the ones that have been here before and left, they have been replaced by better quality players. I knew all along what they can do. I’ve seen them before and they’ve worked with me before, and I done everything to get them here. I knew that some of the key players in the team, like Chris Turner, Mickey Collins, Thomas Heary and Liam Burns, would get a lift from them being here. It’s turning into a good squad, and you have got young Tiarnán Mulvenna whose game is going to get better as the season goes on, and he has got to be happy with his season so far.
“We have won the past few games convincingly,” he continued, “and the good thing is that we’re scoring a few goals. I don’t like to see draws, so I don’t want it to be the case that you win one and lose one, and that was the case earlier on in the season. We have just got to try to maintain the run and try to keep winning games between now and the end of the season. I’m very confident (of doing that), so long as we keep everybody healthy and fit. There are one or two niggling injuries and we have suspensions coming up. But I’m pretty confident that we have got a good enough squad now that everybody is fighting for positions, and it’s a happy dressing room and there’s a happy atmosphere in there. Whoever drops out of the side, there’ll be players ready to take their place and we’ll be replacing them with good quality players.”
Two of those upcoming suspensions sees Dundalk without Shaun Kelly and Michael Daly, who will be missing just their third game this term, for the trip to St. Pat’s. And although Miller admitted that the duo would be missed, he feels the squad is strong enough to cope with their absence. “We’ll miss their certain qualities,” he said, “but the game-plan and how we’ll go about it won’t change. We have got the players here to do it, and when you’re building a squad, that is what you’ve got to look to do – you have got to have quality players ready to come in if players drop out for whatever reason. You have got to have a really decent squad when you’re at a football club, and the group that we have here now is nearly there, but we could do with one or two more. But the finances and the budget that we have at the club has dictated what we’ve got now, so we’re just quite happy to go along with what we have now and close that transfer window door, and kick on between now and November.”
Dundalk have just 24 hours to prepare for Atlético after playing in Dublin, and Miller is unsure yet what first-team players will be involved against the third most successful club in Spain, although he knows that most of the squad will have to be used. “We just need to wait and see.” he said. “We don’t have a squad of 30 or 40 players. All we’ve got I think is 16-17 players, so basically that’s the 11 that’s starting and your bench. I’ll probably have to make up the numbers somewhere along the line, but it will be an enjoyable occasion and I hope everybody enjoys it, and hopefully we’ll take something from it.”