Noel King yet to settle on side ahead of mission to Germany
Selection to be determined by home team as Germans hit by defections due to injury
Interim Republic of Ireland manager Noel King said he is “clearer about the challenge of fitting everybody together”. Photograph: Inpho
Asked once about an opposing team member’s criticism of the way his side had played, Giovanni Trapattoni was scathing as he observed: “Players? Players are children.” Out in Malahide yesterday, though, those he left behind were having to get used to being treated like grown-ups again.
Interim manager Noel King held a squad meeting on Monday night to get a sense of how the group he has inherited feels on a range of issues. It’s not clear how much impact the views expressed will have on his thinking when it comes to selecting his team and tactics, but it just might be that they will appreciate having had their views heard.
King, as it happens, admits to being somewhat undecided on how he should approach Friday’s game against the Germans. Most potential plans seemed to get a full-scale run out yesterday with the 57-year-old drafting in reinforcements from the Airtricity League so that he could play 11 aside training games through the session.
Like the formations, the faces varied over the course of an hour-and-a-half with King veering for the most part between 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1. David Forde, Robbie Keane and Séamus Coleman were among the most obvious constants.
Ciarán Clark, Darron Gibson and Anthony Stokes all appear likely to start in Cologne too if the session was anything to go by – with the fates of quite a few others, it seems, tied to the decision he makes on how best to set his team up again one of the world’s best.
“I’m clearer about the challenge of fitting everybody together,” he said afterwards. “There’s a lot to discussion still to take place and a few more sessions to go through but putting the right players in the right positions is absolutely key to it.”
How best to use Marc Wilson looks like being a big call for the Dubliner, with the northerner having the potential to be central to a reshaping of the side if King opts to play with two holding midfielders behind a three. Stephen Kelly took over at left back for that portion of the session but it’s possible that Joey O’Brien, who spent the day in the gym, might actually be one to be handed a start.
King’s selection will ultimately be influenced by who he reckons Joachim Loew will pick to play for the home team and that has not necessarily been made any easier to call by the German coach losing a string of regulars to injury.
The home side’s determination to win and wrap up top spot in Group C seems completely unaltered by the problems. Team manager Oliver Bierhoff has made it plain that having the job done (they need two points) before Tuesday’s game against Sweden is the aim.
“Anything other than automatic qualification against Ireland would be disappointing,” said Bierhoff. “Despite the injuries, we have to be ambitious enough to dominate the game and win it.”
The league players drafted in to help out, meanwhile, seemed to enjoy the experience and Dundalk quartet Richie Towell, Andy Boyle, John Sullivan, Kurtis Byrne will, along with David Elebert of Shamrock Rovers, all take part again in this morning’s final sessions before the squad head’s for the airport ahead of an afternoon flight to Cologne.
“We got the call this morning and it was great to take part in it,” said Towell afterwards. “I worked with Noel (King) before at under 21 level so he’s seen me playing and it was great that I could come in and give him a hand.
“The other lads are all the same; everyone just jumped at it . . . the chance to come out and play with Robbie Keane, Aiden McGeady and all the rest of them.
“It was just a joy to be out here.”
How much it all helps in the end remains to be seen.
‘Greatest preparation ever’
But King, no matter how new managing at this particular level might be to him, has been around the block enough times to know that Friday’s result will most likely dictate how the quality of his preparations for the game are viewed in hindsight.
“If we win or draw, people will say this was the greatest preparation ever,” he said with a smile. “And if we don’t, then it was rubbish . . . that’s just football.”