IT MAY appear to be an innocuous squad announcement for a meaningless friendly, but this afternoon could turn out to be a day of reckoning for the Republic of Ireland’s bid to qualify for their first major tournament in ten years.
Giovanni Trapattoni will be in Dublin today with his Welsh counterpart Gary Speed to reveal his squad selection for next month’s Four Nations Cup tie against our celtic neighbours.
The make-up of that player-list and the tone in which the Italian addresses the media’s questions will tell us much about whether he is prepared to tinker his team to account for Seamus Coleman and others, or stick rigidly with a bunch that are mainly operating in England’s lower tiers, or in many cases, not at all.
There is no excuse now for Trapatonni not to include Coleman in his squad for the clash with Wales. We can expect the veteran coach to name the Everton star who has been a sensation this season but much will hinge on the inevitable question that will follow:
“Will Coleman play against Wales, and more importantly, will he start the crucial qualifier with Macedonia in March?”
If Trapattoni reverts to stubborn type and tells the baying press that Coleman is young and perhaps not ready for full-international recognition in the make-or-break games ahead, the groans of resignation of every Irish supporter will tremble the walls at Abbottstown.
They will sigh dispiritedly, not only because leaving Coleman as a bit-part player is ludicrous given that he has been a revelation in the Premier League, but it will confirm the growing suspicion of many that Trapatonni is not doing enough to justify the FAI’s faith in him, and the money invested in his services.
Likewise, Ciaran Clark deserves a chance ahead of Sean St Ledger who is having a horrible run of form ever since he was touted as a possible signing for Liverpool and Aston Villa. The present Villa Park stalwart must be given hope that his declaration to play for Ireland was not a terribly ill-judged move on his part.
We have players performing impressively and regularly against international standard athletes on a weekly basis in England’s top-flight; Clark, Carr, Foley, Fahey, Ward, and Coleman among others
In contrast, review the team that lined out against Norway at the Aviva Stadium late last year:
Shay Given (Manchester City)
Stephen Kelly (Fulham)
John O’Shea (Manchester United)
Darren O’Dea (Ipswich Town)
Greg Cunningham (Leicester City)
Liam Lawrence (Portsmouth)
Keith Fahey (Birmingham City)
Glenn Whelan (Stoke City)
Damien Duff (Fulham)
Shane Long (Reading),
Kevin Doyle (Wolves).
Only Fahey and Doyle have made consistent appearances in the Premier League. The argument that Coleman, Clark or Kevin Foley are not ready for international competition is nonsense.
The thought of Kevin Kilbane and Paul Green hacking away in the lower leagues and being parachuted into an Ireland starting eleven in Moscow is, frankly, appalling.
You can also bet that the name of Stephen Ireland will surface at today’s press conference. Trapattoni has often plucked his name out of the air without provocation.
Yet, if the manager should discuss any player coming back into the fold it’s Stephen Carr, a stand-out performer for Birmingham City this season.
His language at the best of times is muddled but the manner in which Trapattoni addresses the press today on the subject of Coleman will be crystal clear.
State that Coleman will start against Wales and that he is in line to make his competitive debut against Macedonia. Say Clark will also be involved. Tell us you have asked Carr to return to international football.
Our capitulation at the hands of Russia, followed by two points dropped in Slovakia, and with hazardous away trips ahead, leaves Ireland already scrapping it out for a play-off spot for Euro 2012 qualification.
Much can alter in the games ahead, but Trapattoni must convey today that he is just as open to change.
It’s C-Day for the manager and Ireland.