Staunton to be included in squad
STEVE STAUNTON will be among the 20 players nominated when Mick McCarthy names his preliminary squad this morning for the World Cup qualifying game against Iceland a week on Sunday.
After earlier indications that the Aston Villa player would not have recovered in time from a damaged hamstring, club officials indicated yesterday that they expect him to be fit for the Lansdowne Road assignment.
It will cushion the loss of Niall Quinn and Ray Houghton, both of whom are still struggling to shake off the injuries which kept them out of the 3-0 win over FYR Macedonia.
Staunton, a pivotal player in McCarthy's rebuilding programme, has been told that the damage, which caused his premature departure from the game against Leeds United on October 19th, is not as serious as first expected.
"I've spoken with Jimmy Walker, the physiotherapist at Villa Park, and he assures me that there is every hope that Steve will be able to play against Notts Forest," said McCarthy. That's important if he is to have a chance of making the World Cup game but, at this point, I am very hopeful that he will do so."
Staunton had two sound Ireland performances against Liechtenstein and Macedonia in which he was joined in the back three by Den is Irwin and Gary Breen.
The obvious deduction is that, if he establishes his fitness and Irwin and Breen both come through next weekend's club programme unscathed, McCarthy will be happy enough to go with an unchanged formation in defence. It will not compensate in full, of course, for the on going absence of Quinn.
Quinn had hoped to resume full training before Sunderland's game against Aston Villa on Saturday but the word from Roker Park is that it may now be another couple of weeks before the striker is fully recovered from a knee injury.
The absence of Houghton, who is making only a slow recovery from the calf muscle problem which manifested itself just before the Macedionian game, will afford the manager the chance of settling Roy Keane back into the team.
Keane's latest brush with authority at Southampton on Saturday will, in an inverted way, concentrate his mind for a return to international football after an absence of nearly eight months.
Given new licence to indulge his sense of enterprise, Jason McAteer enjoyed his most successful outing in an Ireland shirt when offered the opportunity of taking over Keane's old spot in the Macedonian game.
That display was impressive enough to satisfy even the most demanding of his critics, but such is management's desire to rehabilitate Keane, that McAteer may now find himself returning to the more familiar task of running the right side of midfield.
Not the least interesting aspect of today's announcement will be McCarthy's short term plans for Paul McGrath, whose omission from the two earlier World Cup games, disappointed so many of his supporters.
In justification of those decisions, the manager pointed to the fact that the player was short of match practice after being left out of the start of Aston Villa's competitive programme.
That has since, in part, been corrected with his move from Villa to Derby and McCarthy, suitably encouraged, took the time to check out his current form in Derby's 2-1 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield on Sunday.
Meanwhile, attempts by the FAI to secure bigger compensation for the detrimental effects of televised English football on attendance figures at domestic games, were advanced significantly in London yesterday.
A meeting chaired by Herr Perravn Ondal, chairman of UEFA's marketing committee, and attended by representatives of the four "home" associations in addition to the FAI, was told of the problems occasioned by the growing popularity of televised games in the FA Premiership.
According to Bernard O'Byrne, the FAI's chief executive, it is anticipated that a new agreement will soon be put in place with Dublin.