By Bill George
THE frown that fell across Kevin Kilbane’s features expressed more eloquently than any words the conundrum that must blight the young man’s life.
A World Cup star with Ireland, he is a spectator at club level with Sunderland, sitting in the stand since the opening game of the season away to Blackburn Rovers.
The problem for Kilbane is the group of ‘boo-boys’ at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light who barrack him.
He was one of those players who appeared deadly from the penalty spot in training and he maintained he was still confident about his ability to convert.
“It was just on the night I didn’t hit it well, I didn’t strike the ball. It was one of those things really, but I feel very confident and comfortable taking a penalty, and I would certainly take one again.”
Meanwhile, his frustration at being unable to make the Sunderland team is a mystery to more than himself. Ireland’s new international skipper, Kenny Cunningham, said: “It’s a puzzle for the rest of the players in the squad. I know, certainly over the last couple of years, Kevin has probably been the most consistent player in the Irish squad and this is a squad packed with world-class players.
“Kevin has played as well as those players so it is a surprise to the other players in the squad that he can’t find a regular starting place at Sunderland. But Kevin has just got to keep himself focused and train hard, because if there isn’t a future for Kevin at Sunderland, there certainly will be a number of other Premiership sides, I would have thought.”
Meantime his joy at being back with his Irish colleagues was clearly evident. “I’m just looking to go out and play for my country. I’ve enjoyed it winning the 30-odd caps up to now. I want to try and win as many as possible.
Hopefully, I’ve got a few more years left in me at international level.”
With reference to Saturday’s game against Russia he added: “We’re certainly going out there to get a positive result. We’ve got to go for a win and we’ve got enough quality in the team to go there and put in a good performance. Hopefully we can do that.”