Alan Kelly backs David Forde to be a safe pair of hands for Ireland
Millwall goalkeeper set to get the nod to start vital qualifier game in Stockholm
Jonathan Walters during training at Gannon Park yesterday. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Walters in pain after a collision with Shane Long at Gannon Park. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
The Stoke City striker left the field with his right ankle heavily strapped. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
As Giovanni Trapattoni ’s matchday line-up appeared to start taking shape yesterday in Malahide where Shane Long partnered Robbie Keane in attack for the “probables” and Paul Green rather than James McCarthy sat alongside Glenn Whelan in central midfield, Alan Kelly sought to sidestep the speculation.
The manager, he contended, is still weighing up his options ahead of a game that could make or break Ireland ’s World Cup ambitions.
On one aspect of team selection, though, Kelly was clear: David Forde will take his place in the side for the first time in a competitive international and, he insists, the 33-year-old Galway man will be ready.
“He’s there on merit,” says Trapattoni’s coach who himself represented his country on 34 occasions. “The one thing I’d say about David is that the amount of work he puts in on the training ground is incredible. I was actually talking to Kevin Pressman, his goalkeeping coach at Millwall the other day, and his enthusiasm for the game, for being out there on the training pitch, looking at different situations in games . . . he’s taken a real step up, shown that if you put that work into your game on the training pitch then you get the rewards. That’s what we're seeing now.”
Forde comes into the game off the back of three clean sheets kept for his club and with a FA Cup semi-final to come a few weeks down the line so his confidence should certainly be high. Zlatan Ibrahimovic has a way of ruining goalkeepers’ days, though, and Kelly acknowledges that it might take more than the Millwall man alone to keep one of the world’s best striker at bay for 90 minutes.
“Yeah, he’s a player who can strike the ball from anywhere so when he gets within 30 or 35 yards you have to be ready for anything, you saw what he did against England.
“In the old days you’d put him in Row Z of the stand in the first minute but you’re not allowed do that anymore but it’s about what we do with him as a team. Obviously the goalkeeper is one man who has the job of shot stopping and things like that but what you do as a team, say, to stop the balls getting into him, do you maybe screen off the space in front of him . . . all of those things come into the reckoning of the manager when he sits down and decides how to set the team up and what tactics to use.”
Green’s presence in the training game team – and at the expense of James McCarthy, suggests Trapattoni will be looking to his central midfielders to play a big part in protecting Forde and his back four.
The selection would represent a gamble if repeated on Friday with the added protection that Green might provide coming at the cost of McCarthy’s more incisive passing as the team attempts to push forward, a loss that could end up exacerbating Ireland’s persistent trouble with retaining possession. Still, Kelly is predictably upbeat about the midfielder’s potential to make a positive impact.