Noel King may look to Anthony Stokes and Darron Gibson
‘As far as I’m concerned I’m starting from a clean slate . . . why would I exclude anybody?’
Celtic’s Anthony Stokes could be in line for a rare Republic of Ireland call-up from interim manager Noel King. Photograph: Jeff Holmes/PA Wire
As the prospect of Martin O’Neill succeeding Giovanni Trapattoni appears to recede, interim manager Noel King has suggested he may well recall the likes of Darron Gibson, Stephen Ireland and Anthony Stokes on Monday, when he names an extended squad for the games against Germany and Kazakhstan.
There has been no real indication of how O’Neill, a virtually unbackable favourite for the job a week ago, views the FAI’s decision to entrust Ray Houghton and Ruud Dokter with the task of exploring its other options before making a decision, but it is hard to imagine how the 61 year-old can feel encouraged.
It is known he was interested in the job and that he was effectively the association’s preferred candidate. It is believed, however, that as of Monday he had not been formally contacted and so it seems that the decision to broaden the search was made on the basis of informal discussions with third parties regarding the former Celtic and Sunderland boss’s record and management style.
Having been tipped so publically, by the likes of Mick McCarthy as well the media, O’Neill, unless he has been told differently, might well feel that the decision to go for the longer, larger selection process suggests the association have had a look and not been sufficiently taken with that they have seen.
If that is the case, it may be that his own enthusiasm for remaining in the race will be undermined.
King, meanwhile, has been fully embracing his crack at the senior role, watching Fulham against Everton last night before heading to Liverpool today where he plans to take in Tranmere against Stoke City.
The former women’s and under-21 international team manager says he is delighted with the opportunity he has been given and insists he will start from scratch when he sits down to put together his squad over the coming days.
“I’d have no reason to block anybody out,” he says. “As far as I’m concerned I’m starting from a clean slate. It’s my view of what should constitute the squad of 30 odd players that we’ll put on standby (on Friday, when clubs have to be notified), then the 23 that we’ll call-up and from there what the starting 11 should be. Through injury and unavailability we may well lose some players but nobody will be excluded by me....why would I exclude anybody?”
Stokes, with whom he worked well at under-21 level, and Gibson seem likely to feature while Ireland remains more of a long-shot given the extent to which he burned his bridges and the uncertainty he expressed even last week regarding a possible return.