Ireland manager keen to move on
Soccer:Giovanni Trapattoni has insisted the new additions to his Republic of Ireland squad are not merely window dressing and will feature against Poland at the Aviva Stadium on February 6th.
The Italian today included the Derby County trio of Richard Keogh, Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon, as well as Norwich City winger Anthony Pilkington, in a 27-man squad for the friendly in two weeks’ time and has suggested two or three of the quartet may even start the game.
Trapattoni has been reluctant in the past to use new players immediately, but the manager has added “evolution” to his lexicon of late and envisages a number of debuts against the Poles.
“For sure, probably, these two or three, I think they can start this game because it will be for them a good test,” he said this evening. “I am sure they start immediately the game.”
Pressed on exactly who he was referring to, he added: “For example: Sammon sure, also Hendrick and also Pilkington.”
Sammon, in fact, seems the most likely, after Trapattoni revealed he has been following the former UCD, Derry City, Kilmarnock and Wigan Athletic forward for some time.
“Certainly the player that would have been most on our radar prior to this is Sammon. He’s a good player who we would have been looking at for some time. He has good technique and a very strong physical presence so he is somebody who we would have been looking at.”
The manager appears equally enthused by Pilkington, who, unlike Sammon, has been conspicuous by his absence, considering the standard of his performances in the Premier League this season and last. The retirement of Damien Duff appears to have hastened his inclusion.
“Yes, he’s a very good player," said Trapattoni. "(He) shows a lot of potential, he’s someone who we are very interested in. We’ve been following him for a long time, we’re obviously without Damien Duff and he’s the sort of player who has the ability to play both left and right. He’s good, he’s well known for his goalscoring ability and that will certainly add something, but it’s not just that. Technically, he’s very good, and tactically, he’s extremely aware on the pitch. That’s something we will look forward to having in the squad.”
Given Ireland’s injury concerns in defence, with Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger and Marc Wilson all at varying stages of recovery from injuries, Keogh would appear to the one with the most to gain from an outing against Poland that comes six weeks before a World Cup qualifying double-header away to Sweden and at home to Austria.
“In terms of Keogh, he has a good personality,” said Trapattoni. “We like what we’ve seen so far and I suppose with the question marks over Richard Dunne and Sean St ledger in terms of their fitness it’s always good to be looking at other options in defence and that’s something we’d like to see when he comes in.
Hendrick, he added, "is a very good, dynamic player, who shows a lot of ability and technique working around midfielder and we very much look forward to working with him."
Evolution, of course, is a two-way street, and the manager was far from reassuring today when asked about veteran Shay Given's chances of a return, after the goalkeeper recently revealed he would consider an international comeback. Injury meant he was not available for this latest squad – Keiren Westwood, David Forde and Stephen Henderson were named – but the chances of the Donegalman adding to his 125 caps appear slim at this stage.
“It’s similar to the way I would have explained it to Robbie Keane, that there’s an evolution in the squad and it’s important for us to keep bringing players through. I explained it to Shay that I needed to use this match to give the players that I have more experience. When Shay spoke to us on the phone he said to us that if we did need him that he’s be there. That shows a great pride in the jersey, a great professionalism, it what characterises Shay as a player and we have a great deal of respect for him. We will continue to follow him as a player.”
The absence of Stephen Kelly also looks ominous for the verstaile full-back, given his apparent displeasure with spending the entire duration of October’s 6-1 defeat to Germany on the bench and his lack of game-time this season, but the manager insists it’s just a "break" for the man who this month swapped Fulham for Reading in a bid for more football.
"It’s simply a break with Stephen, it gives us the opportunity to have a look at other players. I was in touch with him to let him know about it. The reality is that Stephen hasn’t been playing for the last couple of months."
His omission has also paved the way for the return of Bristol City’s Greg Cunningham to the squad. It's been three years since he debuted against Algeria at the RDS and after troublesome injuries and a move away from Manchester City in that time, he looks set win his fourth cap less than a wekk after his 22nd birthday.
"Also we wanted to have a look at Cunningham who has come back and this is an opportunity to look at him, I want to take that," added the manager.