Jason Byrnes looks at the Irish players unlikely to make the European Championships that could be useful in Poland and Ukraine
It has been well documented that Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni is a little stuck in his ways. He has been vindicated by getting the nation to only its second European Championships, but does that mean that players who may improve the team should be ignored? Is there even better players out there being overlooked, or has the gaffer picked the best players for the job?
There is only one way to answer these questions: find eleven players who could be useful if given a spot on the plane to Poland and Ukraine.
The Queens Park Rangers keeper has played seven times for Ireland, and was a regular squad member until he asked to be excluded from selection in 2007 for family reasons. He has since expressed his desire to be considered once again, but he has been consistently overlooked.
Kenny has had a terrific couple of season for QPR in which he helped the London club return to the Premier League for the first time in sixteen years and is currently aiding their battle to stay in the division. Younger keepers such as Kieran Westwood have been preferred by Trappatoni, but there is no doubt Kenny’s experience could be very beneficial as back-up for Shay Given.
The Everton man has been touted as an Ireland regular ever since becoming a regular starter for Everton last season. Coleman had a sensational debut season and few pundits could come up with any reason to keep him out of the international side. But Giovanni Trappatoni did not share their opinion. Coleman’s chances were few and far between, to the disbelief of pundits and fans alike.
It is clear that Coleman has been a little affected by the manager’s lack of belief in the right-sided defender/midfielder. He has failed to reach the heights of last season, despite having a solid campaign for the Toffees. It is now unlikely that Trap will opt for a player who he ignored when he was in much better form, but Coleman would be a great player to have around when we need another option in a tight game.
Clark has been receiving many plaudits from pundits in England since he broke into the Aston Villa first team last season. He has had his problems with injury this year, and because of that his opportunities have been minimal on the international scene. But there is no doubt that Clark is a talented young player. He is also flexible as he can play in several positions, as he has shown already in his short club career. Starting off as a central defender, Clark has since become a more regular central midfielder, as well as being utilised at right and left back when Villa have been short on numbers.
The issue, however, is whether or not Clark will even be fit. After returning from two months out against Manchester United at the weekend, Clark suffered a suspected concussion and had to be helped from the field, looking particularly shaky. It will have to be seen how many more games he will miss.
A bit of a longshot, but Wilson has been a regular for Stoke and Ireland are rather short of accomplished left backs. Stoke manager Tony Pulis has gone as far this year as to call Wilson the “unsung hero” in Stoke’s success over the past couple of years.
Wilson has only played once for Ireland in the Nations Cup in February 2011, but considering the intense legal battle which the FAI went through with the IFA to get Wilson to be eligible to play for the Republic after already plating under-age football for Northern Ireland it seems strange that he has been overlooked so often. If we are going to bring a surprise defender to the Euros, it has to be Wilson.
The Wigan man is another who has been touted as a regular in squads and even as a starter in the future for a while now. The midfielder has been a Wigan regular for the past two seasons, but has failed to convince Trappatoni that he can do a job for him in the Irish midfield. McCarthy has made substitute appearances under Trappatoni and has looked useful in these few oppurtunities he has been given.
He has been selected in the last couple of squads, and may just make the plane to Poland and Ukraine, but with an abundance of midfielders to choose from it is not beyond reason that he may still miss out. If he does it will be a real shame as he is a quality player who can create and make things happen.
Undoubtedly the most talented Irish player not currently in the international fold, Cork man Stephen Ireland is the first name which jumps out. But there is an infinite amount of controversy when it comes to the Aston Villa midfielder. Firstly, it is only one person’s fault that Stephen Ireland is not in the fold: Stephen Ireland’s. He acted in a way which embarrassed the nation as a whole in the eyes of the football world, in a manner so disrespectful many believe he has given up the right to have any chance of wearing the Irish jersey again.
But can we really be that callous about it? After all, if Roy Keane could return after Saipan, surely we can bear to see Stephen Ireland in the green jersey once again. After all, a player of his talent, despite the fact that he hasn’t quite rediscovered the form of his breakthrough season at Manchester City, is hard to come by. And there is no doubt that we could use some creativity in the attacking third of the pitch, whether the manager thinks we need it or not.
Undoubtedly the player who has evoked the strongest reaction from fans and pundits after being originally overlooked by the Ireland boss, McClean exploded onto the scene with some sensational displays for Sunderland, scoring goals and playing with a freedom which was refreshing to see from an Irish player. It was almost like looking at a young Damien Duff roaring down the left wing in his early days, if Damien Duff was six foot tall.
For once even Trappatoni could not ignore the demand to see an exciting player in an Irish jersey, and McClean got his first cap as a substitute in the friendly against the Czech Republic. The roar around the Aviva Stadium was the affirmation that the Irish fans need to see exciting talent in Poland and Ukraine, even if the gaffer would prefer not to shake things up.
It seemed like the Portsmouth captain was going to be a shoe-in to go to the Euros after a string of good performances saw him became a regular starter under Trappatoni during the qualifiers. But the fortunes of his club seemed to rub off on Lawrence as a lack of form saw him lose his place to Damien Duff when the veteran winger returned from injury. Since then Lawrence has seen his opportunities growing thin as the Euros approach loom large, and it seems as if he will miss out.
The only ray of hope for Lawrence is that Aiden McGeady is going through a terrible patch of form for his club which has seen him lose his place at a crucial time in the season coming up to the Euros. But it is unlikely that Trappatoni will turn his back on McGeady after sticking with him despite some ordinary performances in the qualifiers.
The Norwich midfielder has only one cap for Ireland, but he has been in the international frame in the past and has for many years been expected to become a regular squad member for the national side. Unfortunately the former Shelbourne man has never really kicked on to the next level of form which would see him achieve this.
He is a talented creative player, and is highly regarded at Norwich, having captained the side in the past, but it is hard to see Trappatoni suddenly throwing him into the squad for Poland and Ukraine. However there is no doubt that Hoolahan could be a good addition to the squad, as there are not many players of his kind in the Ireland set-up right now.
The Reading striker has had one of his best seasons ever as Reading gained automatic promotion back to the Premier League. The Waterford man has been a regular starter for his club, but has not featured for his country since the final game of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign in October 2009.
Since then other strikers like Jonathan Walters and Shane Long have been selected by Trappatoni and Noel Hunt has been overlooked. His brother Stephen remains a regular selection in Trappatoni’s squads and Noel would love to be reunited with his brother on the pitch in the summer. However, it is likely that other strikers would need to suffer injuries for Noel to be given a spot on the plane. There is no doubt, though, that he would be a useful player to have as he always gives 100 per cent in an Irish jersey.
The Newcastle frontman was a regular squad member early on in the qualifiers and six months ago I would have said he was a certainty to go to the Euros. But as his chances have become more limited for his club, due to the arrivals of Demba Ba and Pappis Cisse, the likelihood of him making the plane look more and more unlikely.
It would be a shame should Best not make the final squad as he has looked good in an Irish jersey and is capable of coming up with a goal. The problem he has is that others like Shane Long and Jonathan Walters are featuring more regularly for their clubs and will be considered more match fit going into the Euros.