Pilkington makes the case for team-mate 'Wessi' Hoolahan
He will, Giovanni Trapattoni has suggested, start against Poland, but Anthony Pilkington was busy making a case yesterday for giving his Norwich team-mate Wes Hoolahan another chance to impress in a Republic of Ireland shirt next Wednesday night.
“He’s real quality,” says the 24-year-old who was brandishing a new Irish passport as he spoke. “Some of the things he does with the ball and some of the situations he gets out of, his passing and dribbling – he’s a really good player. The Norwich fans call him ‘Wessi’ down here, like Messi.
“He may not get as many goals but he plays in the pocket and he’s really dangerous there and creates so many goals for the team. I can’t speak highly enough of him – he’s probably the best player I’ve played with up to now.”
Hoolahan has found Trapattoni hard to win over with the Italian expressing admiration for the former Shelbourne and Blackpool player but generally insisting he does not quite fit into his system.
Pilkington, on the other hand, seems set to be a favourite of the former Juventus boss who has sounded particularly enthusiastic about what the winger can bring to his team.
It has taken surprisingly long to get to this stage, though, which has led to Pilkington’s commitment to the cause being questioned at times. The Blackburn-born player denies any suggestion, however, that he had one eye on an England call-up while he waited for the phone to ring from Ireland.
“There were little bits and pieces in the press but I never spoke to anyone from that side,” he says. “People were asking ‘why hasn’t he declared for one side?’ but I hadn’t spoken either to the FAI or the English set-up. And as soon as Ireland did get in touch, that’s when I made my mind up that I wanted to play for them.”
Chris Hughton, he says, encouraged him along the way and his father, whose Dublin-born mother is the basis of his eligibility, is “delighted” with the way things have turned out.
Now, the one-time Manchester United youth player is hoping to mark his return to the city he used to visit on summer holidays by making a real impact, showing the defensive work-rate that Trapattoni has hailed as well as an eye for goal.
“Yeah, definitely,” he says. “At Norwich this year I’ve probably had to do a little bit more defending than maybe a winger normally does but that’s to help the team. It’s all part of the game now. You’re not just an attacking player any more, you’ve got to help out the man behind you and do a job for the team as well as yourself.
“I don’t mind doing that but obviously I mainly like attacking and if I get a chance to play, hopefully I can nick a goal.”
Noel King last night pointed to last year’s win by his under-21s in Italy as evidence that his side can compete in a Euro 2015 qualifying group that includes former champions Germany. “We look back on our most recent campaign when we took four points off the Italians,” he said after yesterday’s draw which placed the Republic of Ireland in Group Six along with Germany, Romania, Montenegro and the Faroe Islands.
Ireland manager Brady rules himself out
Liam Brady has dismissed reports linking him with the Republic of Ireland manager’s job when he leaves his current role as head of youth development with Arsenal at the end of next season.
The 56-year-old Dubliner described the idea as “totally out of the question”, adding that “it’s not even something I would consider”.
Brady previously spent two years working as an assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni following the Italian’s appointment to the job, and he had previously been linked with it on more than one occasion.
Brady, meanwhile, said that the timing of his decision to step down from his current role with Arsenal had been influenced by the large-scale impending changes to the way in which club academies are run.
“The whole youth development thing has exploded and a lot of things are changing at the moment, so it seemed like a good time to make the change myself,” he said.
“The club have said that we’ll talk about a new role but we have plenty of time to do that.”
It is expected that the former Arsenal midfielder, who took charge of the academy in 1996, will retain a role in the club’s scouting operation.