Selecting Ireland team a ‘nightmare’ for Noel King

Wes Hoolahan and Andy Reid, the two most creative midfielders – both traditionally crowd favourites – are unlikely to feature together

Interim manager Noel King enjoying the spotlight in Malahide. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho

Interim manager Noel King enjoying the spotlight in Malahide. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho


Noel King says that selecting the Republic of Ireland team to face Kazakhstan tomorrow night will be a far more challenging task than doing so in Germany over the weekend, with the Dubliner admitting he will find it difficult to accommodate players returning from injury or suspensions as well as those who will feel they deserve an opportunity while also rewarding those who did well in Cologne.

With Ireland needing to win in order to maintain their hopes of winning a four-way race with Slovenia, Romania and Turkey for a second seeding in the qualifying stages for Euro2016, the Dubliner – who apparently was not aware of the seeding situation after being told by the association these games would not count towards France – said that he will retain the basic 4-2-3-1 system employed in Germany but that there will be changes even if he has not quite settled on what they are likely to be.

Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne and John O’Shea should all be back although the Irish skipper remains a doubt with the ankle problem that sidelined him on Friday night. The interim manager says that a decision on the striker’s fitness is likely to be taken at training in the Aviva Stadium late this afternoon but that he will not name his starting line-up until tomorrow morning.

“This is much tougher; this is a nightmare,” he said yesterday. “Not because there is an expectation to win, although I understand that, but just in terms of picking a team to play the best way possible bearing in mind Kazakhstan and the threat they offer to us . . . and they do offer a threat, a huge threat.”

‘Attacking way’
Asked whether he needed to change the system in order to get the Irish team on to the front foot this time, he pointed the Joachim Löw’s side as an example of just how versatile the formation is. “I think Germany played it and they were an example of how the game can be played in an attacking way.

“Sometimes the game dictates what happens but you can use it as a starting base and then, as the game goes on, see for yourself. There’s nothing wrong with playing that way, though, regardless of whether you’re setting out to attack or defend; that’s the way the game is moving.”

Precisely who fills in where remains to be seen, however, with the likes of Shane Long, Wes Hoolahan and Andy Reid adding to the pressure on King, who did say, however, that the two creative midfielders, both traditionally crowd favourites, are unlikely to feature together.

More surprisingly, he suggests that he might be considering passing over one of the returning centre-backs.

“It (Reid and Hoolahan) would be very difficult wouldn’t it?” he said. “I don’t know that that’s the dilemma. We have two centre-backs coming in who are very experienced and who have been ever present everywhere and you have Clark who was outstanding and Delaney who did the same thing.”

And getting the defence right, he insists, will be crucial if a potential slip-up is to be avoided. “All of you will be telling me that we should be more attacking and if I wasn’t in this position then I’d be saying the same thing but the reality is that you have to respect your opponent,” said King.

‘Set out plan’
“We’ll look at them all in depth again on the video, we’ll look at the reports on them and we’ll set out a plan to get about it the best way we can. Obviously we like to attack as much as we can but the nature of the game is that you have to defend and defend well in these games . . . if you don’t then you can end up with egg on your face.”

After so many complaints that the quality of the football wasn’t worth the admission price, the crowd, he hopes, will play its part in ensuring that that doesn’t happen.

“I just hope that people come and get behind us. They will get honesty and they will get attacking . . . if we can attack. But they must appreciate that defence is a skill too and is a very important aspect of the game. If we get that understanding we could turn the Aviva into a fantastic place.

“Every opportunity we get in the game,” he adds, “we will try to play. Every opportunity we had the other night, we tried to play.

“If those opportunities arise on Tuesday, then we will play and play and play. And if that does not succeed, well that is fair enough.”

For Ireland, and his successor, he knows, the consequences of failure could be serious.

“I do feel responsible because you don’t want to be a dud. You don’t want to be seen as the dud interim manager.”