Likely starter Harry Arter wary of Georgia threat
Bournemouth midfielder possesses blend of silk and steel Ireland have been lacking
Harry Arter is a likely starter as Ireland travel to Georgia on Saturday. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
Harry Arter leans back and laughs at the notion that after so many close calls Georgia might simply be “due” a win over Ireland this Saturday.
“We hope not,” he says with a shake of the head - although as he talks about the group games he has seen so far it is no throwaway cliché when he says he won’t be taking anything for granted.
“I have seen them play a few times in the group and watched them on TV against Wales when I was out injured,” he says. “It was after the Ireland game and I was very impressed by them.
“They were technically very good players and it was very competitive; in my eyes they deserved to win that game. We watched the first half of the game against Serbia and, again, they were the better side in that half.
“They ended up losing that game but they are very competitive and have some very good players that have probably gone under the radar a bit but it’s important that we respect them like we have in the past and know our jobs.”
The 1-0 win when they came to Dublin was, he acknowledges, a little fortuitous too given the slightly strange nature of Séamus Coleman’s winning goal and it is hard to know, the 27-year-old suggests, whether they will be better or worse this time given that they are playing at home but can no longer aspire to anything more than springing another surprise.
“When I’ve watched them they have been technically very good, physically competitive. I can’t put my finger on why they are not getting results. It might be an in-house thing and hopefully that is the case.
“They can’t do much in the group now so the pressure is all on us to get something but that is something that we as individuals in a squad thrive on. So we are looking forward to it.”
Getting stuck in
With James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick both missing, the Bournemouth midfielder is even more likely to be handed a central role and he likes the idea of getting out there and stuck in as he does for his club week in, week out in the Premier League.
That committed approach comes at a cost with more than his fair share of bookings – two in three games already this season and a dozen last year – bringing the occasional suspension.
However this is something, he says, his managers take a part of the package: “My attitude is to win the game.
“It doesn’t matter if I’m playing in the garden with my brother-in-law and his mates, or for Bournemouth or Ireland, I’ve got a winning mentality. I’ll do anything to make sure I win.
“The way rules have changed in football probably stops that a little bit, it’s why I picked up a few yellow cards but it’s just the way I was brought up to an extent, it’s what gets me in the right mental frame to perform.
“I’m not happy when I get booked,” he continues. “I never intentionally go out to get booked, that’s never the case. The speed these players have when they run at you, you know there will be the odd time where you do catch them, and mistime a tackle. Managers I’ve worked under, and there has not been many, have always encouraged me to play at my full tempo, at the point where they feel they can get the best out of me and that’s being whole-hearted.”
More than half the likely Irish starters for Saturday’s game go into it on a booking and with the threat of a suspension for Serbia’s visit to Dublin hanging over them but Arter, a little ironically, is not actually one of them.
It will not make a difference to the outlook of the team or the players, he insists, in any case, with Martin O’Neill reluctant to take the risk involved in meddling with the approach to one game just because another, ostensibly bigger one is lurking around the corner.
“Managers won’t want their players in the mental frame [of consciously thinking about whether] to get booked or to not get booked, because if you doubt yourself going into tackles you need to get it out of your mind. It wouldn’t affect me if I was going into a tackle on a booking. I’m still going to play the same way.”
At his best, he uses the ball as well as he wins it and has the potential to make a major impact in both games – with his performance in the second half of the win in Vienna among the many positives to be taken from that night.
If he can produce something similar over the next seven days then it is likely to go a long way towards helping Ireland cement their place in the group. Either way, he is already looking the part of an international player; the sort that possesses a particular mix of talents that Ireland have needed for a while now.