Giovanni Trapattoni has challenged his Republic of Ireland players to prove they are every bit as good as England’s in Wednesday night’s friendly at Wembley.
The Italian’s squad is drawn largely from clubs occupying the lower reaches of the Barclays Premier League and the upper reaches of the npower Championship, but they will go head to head with Roy Hodgson’s aristocrats as the two countries meet for the first time since 1995.
Having seen his players repeatedly defy the odds against supposedly stronger nations, Trapattoni is confident they can make life intensely difficult for England.
He said: “The players play in England for Stoke and many teams; the England players play for Manchester United, they play for Arsenal.
“But we can show them we are the same – that’s very important. That’s a stimulation for me, it’s very important that they show they are every bit as good.”
Trapattoni and Hodgson are old foes from their days in club management in Italy and bumped into each other at the Champions League final at Wembley on Saturday evening.
However, the Ireland boss was less than sympathetic over his English counterpart’s injury troubles.
He said with a smile: “I met him at Wembley. He told me he has doubts about missing some players, but I don’t think so.
“He’s missing [Steven] Gerrard – okay; [Andy] Carroll is also out, but they have a strong team. They have others – [Jermain] Defoe, [Wayne] Rooney, [Daniel] Sturridge, [Danny] Welbeck – it’s okay, he has enough offensive players.
“But I have confidence because our team in the last game gave me much trust.”
The game will be one of four the Republic will play over the next two and a half weeks with the World Cup qualifier against the Faroe Islands in Dublin on June 7 by far the most important.
However, a much-anticipated renewal of acquaintances with England and a glamour friendly against world and European champions Spain in New York have their own attraction.
Trapattoni will use the depth of his squad against England as he uses that fixture and Sunday’s friendly against Georgia to finalise his plans for the Faroes.
However, he knows a positive result against England would do his players little harm.
He said: “I changed countries four times and every country showed me many different situations.
“People pay there money and they want to see a show, but they also want a result. When you play not so well, but you have achieved a result, the supporters are 50 per cent happy; if you play well and lose the game, 51 per cent are not happy.”
Skipper Robbie Keane is not expected to meet up with the rest of his team-mates until tomorrow after club LA Galaxy’s game against Seattle Sounders during the early hours of this morning, with Toronto’s Darren O’Dea and Spartak Moscow’s Aiden McGeady were also expected to be late arrivals.
However, Leeds midfielder Paul Green has withdrawn with a hamstring injury and Hull’s Stephen Quinn has been drafted in as cover.