Football fans can be a fickle bunch, just witness Manchester United fans having an about face and welcome Rooney back into their hearts despite the fact that he had twice in the past two years expressed a desire to leave the club.
A few goals and strong performances can quickly act as a balm to any ease the pain of any grievances. Of course for some, things will never be the same again but for the majority they can forgive and forget. This is club football but when we move to international football the parameters change somewhat.
Refusal to play for you country is a different kettle of fish. It is an insult to country, your flag, your heritage and all those fans who would give anything to be in your place. At an international level football is fused with nationalism, patriotism, jingoism and all those other isms which make rational people sound a little crazy from time to time. Now that Ireland have parted ways with Trapattoni there are a couple of players who decided to make themselves unavailable that have had a change of heart.
Darron Gibson is one of these players and was a consistent member of Trapattoni’s squad up to and including the 2012 Euros but since then Gibson has made himself unavailable for his national team. It was at the Euros where the relationship between the player and manager fell apart. Gibson, then a starter in an Everton team that had just finished 7th in the Premier League remained on the bench as Trapattoni chose to send Paul Greene, a player just released by Derby County, on to the field, Gibson was understandably upset at being overlooked and is reported to have been told by Trapattoni that he was too young. Gibson was 25 at the time and so was moving into the prime of his career. Gibson took the difficult decision to turn his back on Northern Ireland in favour of the Republic and so one would assume he is dedicated to play for this country. One would have hoped that Gibson would have taken this slight and put in the extra effort to earn his spot in the team but instead he chose to sulk.
The second case is an even stranger story. Stephen Ireland chose to lie about the death of two grannies rather than turn up and play for his national team. There were reports that Ireland couldn’t handle some of the ‘banter’ that went on in the squad referring to his prematurely balding hairline he got off likely considering that this is how he rolled up to training. This was a huge loss for the Irish team as Ireland had begun his career at club and international level scoring goals and playing some wonderful football. Granny-gate marks the beginning of a sharp decline for the Corkman’s career which now sees him on loan with Stoke City. Being reunited with Mark Hughes may bring back the exciting talent that we know lurks within Ireland and one hopes that he gets the chance to shine again on the international stage. Ireland seems to be quite a strange and sensitive guy and perhaps if Martin O’Neill is to take over as Ireland manager he will be able to coax the best from him.
With the arrival of a new international manager perhaps it is time to forgive and forget and start with a clean slate. Welcome these lost sheep back into the flock. Ireland is not so big a country with such a deep pool talent that we can afford to turn our backs on two Premier League quality midfielders. After all to err is human to forgive divine.