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O’Neil discusses Doyle, injuries and Man City | Men’s First-Team | News

Gary O’Neil was in a positive mood in his pre-match press conference, discussing the permanent Tommy Doyle signing, players returning from injury and the challenge of facing Manchester City.

The head coach is thrilled to have Doyle on board permanently and picked out areas the midfielder can still improve, after an impressive first campaign at Molineux. He also provided an injury update on Pedro Neto and others, with players returning to potentially feature at the Etihad. The Old Gold beat City at Molineux back in September, and while O’Neil’s expecting a much tougher challenge, he’s looking forward to seeing how his players cope on Saturday evening.

On signing Doyle permanently

“I knew it would end up this way fairly early and I’m delighted that it’s all done. He’s played an important part of us this season. Obviously, he had to be patient initially, he didn’t have a pre-season and wasn’t fully fit when he came, and Joao and Mario did exceptionally well in the early part. He had to wait, and we tried to find ways to move things around and get him in the team as well as those two.

“I’m really pleased we’ve been able to add him for next season, he’ll be a good signing for the club. He’s a good age and has a real good hunger about him, the way he works every day, he’s excellent for the culture for the place. It’s a real good shift in the right direction culture wise for us, so pleased we’ve been able to get that one sorted.

“His obvious strength is with the ball. He always gives us something with the ball with his range of passing. I think we can still make that better for him, if that’s going to be his strength. Physically in certain moments he won’t be as strong as Mario, Joao or Bouba, with covering the ground and winning duels, so if he’s going to be a ball-playing midfielder, which he obviously is, we need to try and make that as good as it can be.

“We need to get him to a place where he always impacts a game with his use of the ball. I know how hard he’ll work at it, which is part of the reason we’ve signed him. “We know, even though he knows it’s a strength of his, we need to make it a super strength.”

On welcoming players back for City

“Bellegarde back in full training. Pedro Neto back in full training. Santi back in full training. Enso’s come through another week, Noha is back in training, maybe with a little bit more to do. Daws is obviously still out, but the rest are getting pretty close now.

“We’ll see how best we can use them between now and the end of the season, how many minutes we can get into them and hopefully we can finish the season strongly because we are in a better position fitness wise. Matheus Cunha’s calf is getting better every week, he feels better this weekend than he did last. Channy got another 90 minutes in him last weekend. The group’s in a much better place and it’ll need to be because it’s a fairly difficult test that we face tomorrow.

“It’s discussing with the fitness team how many minutes and when in the game, what suits, and whether we use them all this weekend, or whether a couple of them or one of them needs an extra week in training before we put them into Premier League football. They’ve all completed a good week’s training, so from my point of view, forgetting tomorrow, it’s just seeing them all back, the lift it’s given everyone on the grass. To see the group back together, starting to look stronger, takes me back to where we were in October and how it felt in that moment. Looking forward to seeing them all back together.”

On a big win in the reverse fixture

“It was probably the first time that we managed to execute a detailed gameplan. For the buy-in and belief from the players, to see something we worked hard on help them and help us get a fantastic result, that helps when you’re trying to change culture and get results. Even if it wasn’t against Manchester City, we needed at least one in that early part where the game went how we wanted it to and how we told the players it would.

“For it to be against them obviously gave everyone a real lift, and off the back of a tough result in the cup that week, it was a big boost for everyone. A moment I’m sure I’ll remember, you always remember your first big win at any club, and beating Manchester City and Pep Guardiola doesn’t come around very often. A big moment for us, but it won’t help us much tomorrow, I’m sure they’ll be keen to put that right and try to win the league for the fourth consecutive season which is incredible.

“We’re facing potentially the best team in Premier League history, so it’ll be a real test for us, but I’m really looking forward to it. I spoke to the players about looking forward to the challenge because that’s the benchmark. It’s the ultimate test of where we are and I’m looking forward to seeing how we cope.”

On a different test on Saturday

“Everybody’s pretty aware of how good they are in the run in. It’s at the Etihad, the title’s on the line for them, so they probably don’t feel like they can make a slip, with Arsenal breathing down their necks. They’ll be expecting to need 12 points to get it done and we go there to give everything we can.

“I’ve spoken to the players, similar to the Arsenal game recently. We needed to be as close to perfect as we could to give ourselves an opportunity. We were on that evening and gave ourselves a chance and we’ll look to do the same again tomorrow, try and be as close to perfect as we can and see if we can cause an upset.

“Of course, Manchester City have a huge drive for this game because of the title race they’re involved in, but three points or a point would be massive for us, with trying to finish as high as possible, so we’re really focused. “We understand how difficult it will be against, I know they lost on penalties, but the best team in Europe, in my opinion, but we’ll try and find a way to come out on top.”