Only Trap could introduce a new-look Irish squad but fail to get people excited. Given, Dunne, Keane, Duff and perhaps surprisingly, Stephen Hunt, are provisionally left out, as is Andrews, suspended for the Kazakhstan game. Marc Wilson, James McCarthy, James McClean, and Seamus Coleman are in but there has been no cull. Still, the Italian has hinted that change could be coming.
Announcing the squad in Donegal, Trap’s decision to leave out veterans Given, Dunne, Keane, and Duff produced a flutter of surprise that perhaps they’d called time on their international careers. It’s nothing of the sort. Instead he is using the Serbia game to blood some players, to experiment, but ultimately, you’d imagine to reintroduce the old guard when the serious business of World Cup qualification begins.
No one is suggesting these loyal servants should be sent packing. All could play a role, though some, like Keane, could be used in a much more sparing way.
No Hoolahan, or Clark. No one expected them but it’s the inclusion of old heads who failed to deliver that has provoked such antipathy. Paul Green, Keith Treacy, Andy Keogh are players we’ve seen before but there are no shocks, except the omission of Stephen Hunt. Are his days now numbered?
And yet the Italian hinted he’s willing to experiment. He had wanted to call in Shane Duffy and Robert Brady but they’re needed by the U21s for a crucial qualifying match with Turkey. James McCarthy will be given the game in Serbia to prove if he can start in place of Andrews against Kazakhstan. Trap also spoke to Kevin Foley but he told him he was not ready to come back. He may never be.
Perhaps the manager could have done much more to lift the mood of gloom by naming his first choice squad with the newcomers he intends to integrate into the team for the World Cup qualifiers. People will argue they need this game to get used to international football. Yet, they also need to get familiar with the actual players who Trapattoni intends to deploy in the campaign.
There will be far more scrutiny on the squads named by other nations. Expectations in the England camp will have risen after their better-than-anticipated showing in Poland. The Germans too will be desperate to reassert the reputation that had them tagged as pre-Euro favourites.
The blend of youth and players with a point to prove were far more entertaining to watch than the turgid football we produced in the qualifying campaign and in Poland.
However, the Italian said himself after Euro 2012 he was prepared to try new players and new systems. This is the start of that process. Only time will tell where the importance of this game lies in his future plans.
Coming right at the start of the Premier League season, these friendlies have traditionally proved tepid affairs. In Ireland’s case, however, it’s the final game before the World Cup campaign begins and we don’t have the luxury of going through the motions.
As ever with Trap, his starting eleven will answer some questions as to how he’s thinking. Yet, as with the inclusion of old faces, we’ve seen this before. Making the squad doesn’t mean making his game plan.
No new dawn then but a glimmer of light that the Italian is thinking differently and perhaps a chance for some new stars to shine.
Republic of Ireland squad vs Serbia:
Westwood, Forde, Randolph, Wilson, O’Shea, St Ledger, O’Dea, Ward, Kelly, McShane, Whelan, Gibson, McCarthy, Green, Coleman, McGeady, Keogh, McClean, Treacy, Doyle, Long, Cox, Walters