Pilkington expected to make squad for crucial qualifiers
Winger should make Norwich bench today and FAI have been told he is available
Anthony Pilkington of Norwich is expected to be named in Ireland squad. Photograph: Paul Thomas/Getty Images
The games themselves may prove a little trickier, but Anthony Pilkington is expected to make another Ireland squad tomorrow when Giovanni Trapattoni announces it in Dublin, having been included by Norwich in their squad for the Premier League game against Hull City.
The midfielder, who had withdrawn from no fewer than five Ireland squads over the past year, is not expected to start the game as he is short on match fitness after missing much of the club’s pre-season as well as last week’s opening round of games in the league with a knee problem, but he seems likely to make the bench and the FAI has apparently been told that he is available for selection.
He seems likely to get another chance to be involved, with Trapattoni having spoken warmly about the 25-year-old, showing no hint of frustration at the player’s repeated withdrawals due to injuries and his wedding.
The player’s status might even have been enhanced by the team’s performance in Wales, where neither Shane Long nor Wes Hoolahan grabbed their opportunity to shine. And the Italian has repeatedly said that he sees Pilkington as having the potential to be a key contributor in a reshaped side.
The firm impression that the manager would be welcoming his captain, Robbie Keane, back ahead of the decisive World Cup qualifiers against Sweden (at home) and Austria (away) has only been strengthened by the striker’s recent return to form, with the Dubliner grabbing five goals in his last two games for his American club, LA Galaxy.
Trapattoni put back the announcement of the squad from yesterday until tomorrow in order to assess the readiness of some of his Premier League and Championship players as close to the qualifiers as possible, as he takes in two games today before flying into Dublin tomorrow morning.
Under his belt
The Italian will start out at Bolton where the visit of QPR will give him the chance to assess Richard Dunne, who started a Championship game for the Londoners for the first time last week and will be hoping to get another 90 minutes.
The Ireland manager has repeatedly said that Dunne needs to be back playing regularly before he would consider bringing him back into the international fold for such important matches and the Dubliner clearly isn’t taking anything for granted with his former Aston Villa team-mate Stilyan Petrov having announced this week that that the defender would be one of many stars to play in a charity game at Celtic Park on September 8th. That’s two days after the home match against Sweden and the day that the Ireland squad is scheduled to train in Malahide before flying to Vienna for the Austria game on the 10th that afternoon.
If Dunne can do enough to suggest he is getting back to anything like his best, however, Trapattoni may well make room for him in his squad, which may initially extend to more than 23 players. The hope would be that he would get more playing time in between now and then and if that happened the Italian might be seriously tempted to restore him to the centre of his defence.
Several other players who have been carrying injuries of late are reckoned to bey back in contention for selection, with David Forde and Seán St Ledger both expected to be included tomorrow, having informed the manager that they are on course to resume training at their clubs early next week.
John O’Shea, Ciarán Clark, Shane Long and Aiden McGeady are all said to be fit, too, after recent knocks and Trapattoni should get to see how the West Brom striker and Everton full-back Séamus Coleman get on for their respective sides today as he intends to head straight to Goodison Park from Bolton. However, Simon Cox and Stephen Quinn look likely to be ruled out with injuries.