Wilson ready to make up for lost time
THREE YEARS of Premier League football and an ability to play pretty comfortably in several different positions should, on the face of it, make Marc Wilson look a rather attractive prospect to Giovanni Trapattoni but the 25-year-old heads to Kazakhstan tomorrow in the hope of earning what would be only his second senior cap.
The Northerner readily admits to being disappointed he hasn’t racked up a few more appearances. Although as he met the media yesterday for the first time while on international duty since the game against Brazil in London at the start of 2010, there was a clear sense of relief too that he still has a chance to do so at all under the current regime.
“There were”, he acknowledges diplomatically, “some misunderstandings which I’m not going to get into now,” and the upshot was that having had to pull out of his fair share of squads, he was excluded from the international set up for a spell too.
“There are certain situations where a player betrays the spirit of the group,” observed Trapattoni back in January when he was asked about the Stoke City player’s position, “and there has to be discipline. When he sees us he must say: ‘I’m sorry, I made a great mistake.’”
As it turned out, it was Trapattoni who was making the “great mistake,” for he had mixed Wilson up with another slightly fringe player who has, it seems, yet to come back on bended knee.
“At the time I didn’t speak to him, no,” says Wilson when asked whether he was straight on to the Italian to alert him to the case of mistaken identity, “but afterwards, we cleared it all up and now everything’s fine.”
The mistake might have cost Trapattoni and his successors the services of a versatile player who is rather more fondly regarded by Tony Pulis, a club manager who, like the Italian, likes to think he has a knack for getting the most of rather limited resources.
The IFA, it seems, made discreet enquiries through the club as to whether Wilson would like to abandon his dream of playing for the Republic and declare for Northern Ireland instead.
“Apparently so,” he says when asked about the approach, “but I had only had my mind set here, I had no interest. That was that.
“That (the falling out with Trapattoni) didn’t change my mind in the least. I had no intentions (of going back to Northern Ireland); I was going to play for the Republic or no one, and that was it.”
Perhaps had things gone differently, Wilson would have sneaked into Ireland’s squad for the European Championships – a case for him actually starting at left back in Poland was far from impossible to make – but Trapattoni called him to say he was sticking with the players who got the team there and he says he accepted the manager’s decision with good grace.
In a subsequent call he was asked to go on standby for the tournament but says he couldn’t because his girlfriend had been hospitalised and, as she is American, “had nobody else to look after her.” This, he says, was accepted equally well by the manager.
In fact, he says, he was injured for most of last season and routinely had injections into a troublesome ankle in order to play for his club. Still, he insists, “if I’d been called up for the Euros I’d have been there, I just would have had some tough decisions to make.”
Instead, he is waiting for an overdue chance to impress and, realistically, hoping he will get it against Oman next week in Craven Cottage where the likes of Sean St Ledger and Keiren Westwood have done well before.
“I am a little bit disappointed, being honest,” he adds about the fact that he has played just once, against Wales, in the three years he has been on and off the scene. “I thought I would have got the chance to play more often earlier, the first time I came in. But it just never happened for me.
“I think, deep down, that did upset me a little bit. But I’m here now and I want to do well for them – hopefully I’ll get my chance. I think there are going to be more opportunities.
“Obviously the lads who’ve gone out have been great servants. They’ve done terrifically well for Ireland over the years and they’ve been here for a long time and they’ll definitely be missed because they’re very good players. But I do sense there’s an opportunity for some of the lads coming through now.”
FALSE HOPE: TARDELLI HINTS AT RETURN OF DUFF
After all the crossed wires produced by Sunday’s press conference, Marco Tardelli bounded towards the press for his pitch-side briefing in Malahide yesterday with a broad smile on his face and a promise: “No confusion! Today we have no confusion.”
The clarity didn’t last long, though, as Giovanni Trapattoni’s assistant chirpily announced that, in addition to Richard Dunne, he hoped Damien Duff would be back for the Germany game.
This was to the broadcast media and a moment of silence flowed before someone, clearly fairly shocked, asked: “DUFF?”
“Yes,” replied Tardelli with an even broader smile, “I hope.”
There followed some frenzied questioning from baffled but slightly excited journalists which Tardelli reacted to with a lot of non-committal stuff about having a word with the player and “hope”.
Eventually, when one reporter described it all as “great news,” the Italian started to back pedal, remarking: “Well, I don’t know whether it’s good or not. I said I hope.”
Subsequently, when asked by the daily newspaper journalists a few minutes later whether he felt persuading Duff to return was “realistic” Tardelli, still grinning, replied: “No, no, but I hope.”
In fact, Tardelli did say that he has asked Dunne to have a word with his fellow Dubliner but he gave no reason to believe that it would have any effect on Duff’s decision.
More immediately, in any case, Kevin Doyle sat out most of training yesterday after playing the previous day for Wolves in the Championship, while Keiren Westwood and James McClean were said to have slight temperatures, although nothing that is likely to keep either man out of Friday’s game in Astana.
Tardelli also suggested Trapattoni will revert to his usual 4-4-2 formation for the opening qualifier of the campaign, with Wigan’s James McCarthy, it seems, increasingly likely to partner Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan in central midfield. – EMMET MALONE