Trapattoni anxious to see Richard Dunne return
Italian sees fully fit Dubliner as critical to team’s fortunes at home to Sweden
Richard Dunne will have two games for QPR before the Republic of Ireland face Sweden in a vital World Cup qualifying game on Friday week. Photograph: Alex Broadway/Getty Images
There are hurdles to be overcome yet in the form of games against Swindon and Leeds, and Giovanni Trapattoni doesn’t sound like a man who is counting his chickens, but yesterday he kept Richard Dunne firmly on track for his first competitive international comeback by naming him in an extended preliminary squad for the World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria.
The manager made it clear that his priority is to have the Dubliner involved in the home match against Sweden’s “big and strong” players after which he would be happy enough to revert to the partnership of John O’Shea and Ciarán Clark. For now, though, he admits he is not even certain that the centre back will actually be sufficiently fit to feature on Friday week; only that, on the strength of Saturday’s performance in Bolton, he is moving in the right direction.
“I saw him and while he wasn’t that busy he looked like he can be in good shape to play physically,” said Trapattoni. “He has other games to come and we can look at him in training during the week before the match but against the Swedish players – big and strong – I think he can be important for us. Of course we still have John O’Shea and Ciarán Clark, who have been good but he gives us another option.”
This pairing, he admitted, however, he sees as being better suited to the particular challenges presented by the attacking side of the Austrians. Against Zlatan Ibrahimovic and co he wants his biggest gun despite the fact that he has not played in a competitive game for his country since the defeat by Italy in Poznan.
“In a way, as a manager, you have to keep some things to yourself but, sure, if he plays in that game he might not be able to recover his energy in the space of four days. And the Austrian strikers are different to one like (Johan) Elmander. But we have time to decide, we can look at him in training and see if perhaps he can even play for one hour.”
A fully fit and mobile Dunne must certainly seem like an attractive prospect to Trapattoni. At his best for his country he has held his own against top class opponents and it is impossible to imagine that Trapattoni’s side would have taken anything home from the likes of Moscow two years ago had it not been for his heroics.
Whether he still capable of reproducing those on the eve of his 34th birthday and after an entire year during which he played no competitive football at all remains to be seen but Saturday’s display was certainly encouraging. An early booking for a clumsy challenge aside he generally looked comfortable although in truth not a lot was asked of him. The length of time he took to get going late in the game when Craig Davies got away from him inside the area suggested there might still be the potential to add sharpness.
Playing in both League Cup and Championship games would help on this front although it’s far from clear that Harry Redknapp, who praised the defender after Saturday’s game, will use him against Swindon now that he has started to establish himself as a first choice player. The flip side for the Italian, of course, is that there is always the risk that Dunne may yet suffer another injury.
However, having sounded decidedly pessimistic about the defender a few weeks ago, Trapattoni was far more upbeat yesterday. “I said to you that it was necessary for him to play, one, two, three games after the surgery, that it would be important for him to be playing; that he needed to take time but he’s strong physically and has a lot of experience so I will speak with him because we need to make sure he is ready psychologically, but we have time”.
Trapattoni made clear that in the event that Dunne starts then it will be Clark who makes way with the manager acknowledging that it would be impossible at this stage to take Séamus Coleman out of the team in order to facilitate a return by John O’Shea to right back.
There may yet be at least one change to the list of regulars when the squad is whittled down to 23 next week if injuries don’t take care of it with Trapattoni suggesting that Joey O’Brien, who has been starting for West Ham at left back of late, may have impressed the manager with his versatility. “He is,” said the Italian, “a bit of a wild card”.