Recall for Kelly but Gibson still stays away
Giovanni Trapattoni has had no contact with Stephen Kelly since the Reading full back's comments last month.
Stephen Kelly is expected to turn up for international duty tomorrow week ahead of the World Cup qualifiers with Sweden and Austria but Darron Gibson’s international career is still languishing in limbo after the Everton midfielder again declined a recall to the Republic of Ireland squad.
The 25-year-old apparently informed Trapattoni that he does not want to become embroiled in the “controversy” that he believes a return to the fold would involve at the moment and the Italian says that he has no option in the circumstances but to accept the player’s decision.
Gibson had been expected to react positively to the call-up, with his club manager David Moyes and a couple of his club-mates strongly suggesting in recent weeks that he was ready to end his self-imposed international exile.
In a telephone conversation ahead of yesterday’s squad announcement, however, Trapattoni said that Gibson had informed him “he is not ready, he said that in the future he would be available again but not now, he is still injured”.
The manager made a point of telling Gibson that he had seen him play against Norwich and that he had played well but, he added, the midfielder insisted that he wasn’t ready: “He said he didn’t want the controversy and that he preferred to stay at his club; I have to respect his decision.”
Given Trapattoni’s repeated insistence that the players he picks have to want to play for him, the Italian was pressed on whether he would consider Gibson again.
“Why not?” he replied. “He is a good player and I won’t forget him.”
A little later he added, a little plaintively: “What can I do? That’s life. We need three bags of patience. A manager needs the player to go on to the pitch but if they won’t now then he knows that they might some time in the future. They are young and the manager knows this because he was a player once too. Perhaps one day these players will be managers; I hope so because then they will understand a little better.”
Biding his time
The 73-year-old insisted that he would look to call Gibson into his next squad in May too but it looks increasingly like the player may be simply biding his time until Trapattoni moves on.
Asked if he thought Gibson might want to play for Ireland but not him, the manager replied that he didn’t think so: “If that is what he thinks, he has not told me,” said Trapattoni.
Kelly’s position is more ambiguous for the moment, with the Reading defender simply expected to show up next weekend despite the events of last month when Trapattoni suggested the player only wanted to come in for international duty if he was going to play and Kelly hit back with a statement refuting that claim in very strong terms.
Trapattoni initially seemed to say yesterday that he had spoken with the Dubliner and that their differences had, in one way or another, been put behind them. But it subsequently became clear that there has been no contact whatsoever and that Kelly is simply expected to arrive for international duty on the basis that he said in his statement a few weeks ago that he always would.
On the face of it the defender would appear to be one of the players most at risk when yesterday’s list of 29 names then has to be cut to an official squad of 23 but Trapattoni might, with all that has gone on, be inclined to keep him around just now.
Asked if last month’s very public exchange had all been a terrible misunderstanding, Trapattoni, who was clearly under strict instruction from the looming media director standing a few feet away, observed: “If I gave you the impression that I would not select him anymore then it was a misunderstanding.”
Andy Keogh has already lost out on this occasion while Keith Andrews is omitted on the basis of an Achilles injury and there will be considerable interest in what Trapattoni chooses to do with the likes of Jeff Hendrick and Conor Sammon when the times comes to cut the numbers.
Somewhat inevitably, the veteran coach was upbeat regarding Ireland’s prospects in this month’s games, with the Italian doing his best to sound taken aback at the idea that the team’s prospects in Stockholm might not be great.
“We can’t beat Sweden? Why not? Or not lose? We have only lost to Germany. I still believe in this group. We can do well against Sweden and then we can worry about Austria.”
Ultimately, he insisted when asked about what would happen if this month’s results did go poorly: “We can qualify in the last games when Sweden must play Germany but we have the Faroes.”
Actually it’s Kazakhstan but like a reporter at a Trapattoni press conference you get the general idea.