Ireland trio back on board as Noel King does it his way
Republic of Ireland interim manager appears to have laid the groundwork for Stephen Ireland’s return
Ireland’s Kevin Doyle, Andy Reid and Anthony Stokes arrive for training in 2007 and now find themselves back in the picture for this month’s World Cup qualifiers.
Noel King admits to feeling a little bad about the way things finished with Giovanni Trapattoni but has wasted no time in asserting his independence from the Italian, with Darron Gibson, Anthony Stokes and Andy Reid all on course for international returns next week after the Republic of Ireland interim manager named them in his squad for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against Germany and Kazakhstan.
The Dubliner admits that he found it impossible to consult with his predecessor after failing to get in touch when the 73-year-old was dismissed by the FAI last month. He has shown more of a gift for communications with players the Italian found problematic, however, and appears to have laid the groundwork for Stephen Ireland’s return over the coming months too.
“I was going to give him a ring and I should have, to say goodbye,” he said, “but I didn’t know how to do it because it’s not a nice time when you come to the end of your contract. So I didn’t consult him, no. The temptation was to do it (but) I put the phone down.”
King insists that he had no axe to grind with the Italian who, he says, was “good to me”. He acknowledged that he would have been disappointed on occasions when some players were taken from the under-21s in order to join the senior squad.
However, he quickly demonstrated that he knows just how his predecessor felt when he laughed off a suggestion that he might leave Robbie Brady to Harry McCue for the two European Championship qualifiers against Romania this month. “I might take another couple just to see how he copes,” he joked.
Brady, in any case, was forced to withdraw from the squad within a matter of hours and the Hull City midfielder is to have surgery on a groin problem.
Jon Walters, meanwhile, is a doubt for the games but King insists he is well covered having named 26 players in a preliminary squad that includes Kevin Doyle but not the likes of Conor Sammon, Darren O’Dea or Andy Keogh.
The 57-year-old has put quite a stamp on things in what could prove to be his only senior squad, with Simon Cox and Paddy Madden omitted too in order to make way for Stokes while some of those who might have hoped a change of manager might lead to a call in from the cold, most notably Keith Andrews and perhaps Stephen Ward, have also been disappointed.
Most of all, though, the announcement will be remembered for the recall of players who fell out with Trapattoni and, as a result, slipped to the sidelines. Reid’s return has been the longest coming although it might well be the least significant. Both Gibson and Stokes would be seem to be in with decent shouts of going straight into the team against Germany and King will be in Glasgow tonight to cast an eye over the Celtic player who is something of an old favourite from his time with the under-21s.
“I find him a good man,” he said of the occasionally controversial Dubliner. “He’s a good fella with lots of talent and I think he’s starting to settle and show that talent now. He’s versatile; he can play on his own up there, I think he can play wide and I think he can play as a number 10, would you believe?”
He declined to comment on why Trapattoni had rarely seen him as worthy of any of those roles on the basis that he was not entirely au fait with what had gone on during the player’s previous stints in the squad. “I can’t say anything really,” he said, “except that he can play in any of those positions as far as I’m concerned.”
The former Shamrock Rovers player and manager acknowledged that those left out would be sore about it but insisted that he had to make the calls he felt appropriate as he sought to put together a squad capable of yielding wins against both Germany and Kazakhstan. The former, he admitted, might seem a little more farfetched to those on the sidelines but he suggested, “it would be unnatural to look for anything else”.
Later, he clarified things a little by saying that some games are simply “there for you to take” and when that happens it is unforgiveable if you have not put yourself in a position to seize the opportunity.
The same might be said for openings in football management but King squirmed slightly when put on the spot about the admittedly unlikely prospect of earning himself a full-time crack at the job. “Would yez leave me alone!” he exclaimed after being badgered about a little.
He’d settle for still being employed by the association after these two games, he continued in jocular fashion before adding something more seriously: “It’s an opportunity, absolutely. And anyone who could manage to get a victory or a performance against Germany... you’d have to say that that improves their CV.
“But that’s way, way away and I couldn’t contemplate talking about it, in all honesty. I’m totally focused and have been since I got the news one hundred per cent on how we can get the best players in, get the preparation right, ensure the backroom staff is in order.
“I’m totally preoccupied with all that. I work for the FAI and I’m delighted they’ve asked me to do this and whatever they ask me to do when it’s over I can’t make any comments on that.
“I’d like them to appoint the best man to bring Ireland to the next tournament, the next Europeans. We all want to get to the finals, so that’s it. But I can’t talk about anything other than the two games and (in those) the whole package – not just me but the players, the squad, the staff – will decide how we do.”