Statistics released this week show Ireland with the fourth highest representation of footballers in the Premier League and, with the new season just starting, international boss Giovanni Trapattoni was able to name ten top flight players in his team to face Wales. This time a year ago, however, his squad was reeling from a disastrous European Championship. The manager has stuck to his word and overhauled the playing staff but for the team that lined out against Italy last summer, much has changed in just 12 months.
Accused of over-looking players in the past, the likes of Seamus Coleman and James McCarthy are now the poster boys of Trapattoni’s new Ireland. The manager set about rebuilding his side in the aftermath of Euro 2012. Not quickly enough for some, the Italian has gained little credit for this. While James McClean has had to drop a division to chase first-team football, and the promotion of Paddy Madden to the squad demonstrates that some of our players are still plying their trade in the lower leagues, a look at the Irish team that went down 2-0 to Italy in Poznan last June illustrates the rapid change in fortunes for many of the players who travelled to Poland.
Retired from international football only to reverse his decision. However, Trapattoni has stuck with newcomers and West Ham’s Stephen Henderson was named as David Forde’s replacement in the squad for this week’s friendly. Given is now a loan target for Doncaster in the Championship.
Sean St Ledger
St Ledger was dogged by injury last season. He missed the start of the last campaign at Leicester City with a knee injury before enduring another five months out after suffering a torn hamstring. Having spent part of last term on loan at Millwall, he was told by Leicester at the beginning of the summer that he could leave as they aim to trim their wage bill. However, the defender is keen to earn a contract but has been ruled out of the Wales game through injury and faces a race against time to be involved in the September qualifiers.
Once a first-choice for Ireland having dislodged stalwart Kevin Kilbane from the left-back slot, Ward has been transfer-listed by his club Wolves. He’s believed to be a target of old manager Mick McCarthy at Ipswich but has lost out to Marc Wilson in Trapattoni’s plans.
Club captain at Sunderland last season, Sheasy appears to be a favourite of manager Paolo Di Canio. With Richard Dunne’s absence from the Irish side, O’Shea is one of the elder statesmen in Trapattoni’s squad and will captain the team in Cardiff.
After enduring a horror season through injury, Dunne was club-less at the beginning of the summer when he linked up with the Irish squad. He’s managed to secure a move to Harry Redknapp’s QPR in the Championship but has been told by Trapattoni he must play if he is to return to the set-up.
Injury has kept him out of recent Irish sides with James McCarthy and Wes Hoolahan pushing to become permanent fixtures in the midfield. Whelan, part of a Stoke side that narrowly avoided relegation, has played 57 league and cup games without a goal but has been deployed in a more attacking role in pre-season by new manager Mark Hughes and retains the confidence of his international coach.
Plenty of rumours have surfaced of potential moves away from Moscow without anything materialising. McGeady was castigated by Eamonn Dunphy for his performance against the Faroe Islands while simultaneously praised by Niall Quinn. McGeady has stated his desire to leave Russia and will not sign a new contract, with Everton one of a number of clubs thought to be chasing him. Spartak Moscow general director Roman Askhabadze recently stated: “Spartak is ready to consider any proposal for the player”
Considered Ireland’s best player at Euro 2012, Andrews is now in danger of being omitted from Trapattoni’s plans. Andrews joined Bolton on a three-year deal last year and made 27 appearances last term. He was shocked last week to be told he was being sent on loan to Brighton for the season. “”Nobody really had the decency to even phone me as I was leaving. I think I deserve a little bit more respect than that, I suppose,” he said.
Duffer retired from international football in the aftermath of Euro 2012 and enjoyed a good club season at Fulham last year making 34 appearances and scoring three times. Despite Trapattoni’s own attempts to discuss Duff’s decision, the Dubliner never showed any signs of returning to the Irish set-up.
Doyle endured a torrid season at club-level suffering relegation to League One with Wolves and was dropped from the Irish squad by Trapattoni. He will not feature against Wales this week as rumours still abound of a potential club move. Hull have cropped up as potential suitors but Celtic boss Neil Lennon gave no indication he was chasing the striker while in Dublin last weekend.
Despite the constant hard time he suffers from some sections of the Irish support, Keane stepped from the shadow of David Beckham last season to become the face of LA Galaxy. In 2013 he has 7 goals in 13 games so far though a recent injury has kept him out of club action. Keane has not been asked to travel to Cardiff for this week’s game but his recent hattrick against the Faroes saw the Dubliner become Ireland’s record caps holder. He’s likely to add to those in September’s crucial World Cup qualifiers.
Walters had a rollercoaster year at club-level with some major lows such as scoring two own goals at Chelsea, and missing a number of penalties, but he finished as Stoke’s top scorer. He’s already netted against FC Dallas and Wrexham in pre-season and has sung the praises of new manager’s Mark Hughes playing style at the Britannia Stadium. Walters’ has recently been deployed on the wing by Trapattoni for Ireland and will stay there for the game with Wales.
Cox has been ruled out of the friendly in Cardiff through injury and will miss up to three week’s having featured in Notts Forrest’s two games to date. The striker scored six times last season and was also on target for Ireland against Georgia. His absence has opened the door for Yeovil’s Paddy Madden who has earned a full call-up to Trapattoni’s squad.
Having had their differences in the past, Shane Long is now Trapattoni’s number one striker. High profile scores against the likes of Chelsea and Man City saw Long finish the season on 13 goals for club and country. His header against England has, quite literally, lifted him to new heights. The Tipperary man captained Ireland against Georgia and with no Robbie Keane this week, will aim to cement his place as Ireland’s new talisman.