We were all eagerly anticipating the squad announcement on Monday.
Although most people would say that I was more or less guaranteed a place on the plane, purely on the amount of games I played in the qualifying campaign, I am not the type of person to take things for granted.
So it was a massive honour but also a relief to see the squad announced and my name there in black and white.
I subsequently heard from a number of the lads that they had phone calls from Giovanni Trapattoni to confirm they were in the squad a couple of hours before it was made public. I’m not sure if the manager lost my number but I didn’t receive any call and if I had known players were getting calls, then I probably would have been in a real panic! Incidentally, whenever you get a phone call as a player, whether from a manager or someone else in football, you always have to be careful that it’s not one of the lads having you on. For example, a group of the lads got together a few months ago and one of them phoned another player, purporting to be from a reputable magazine which wanted to do a big profile on him.
He was told that this had all been cleared with the press officer.
So, the interview began with a couple of mundane questions and then progressed to increasingly bizarre ones, like ‘what’s your favourite packet of crisps?’ and ‘do you believe in the afterlife?’ And he fell for it, hook, line and sinker. In fact, I don’t think he realised what had happened until he bought the magazine the following month and couldn’t understand why the article hadn’t been published.
There are obviously going to be players bitterly disappointed to have been left out of the squad but, unfortunately, this is the tough part of the job for the manager. I do genuinely feel for those lads who have been in a lot of squads over the last few years and haven’t made it for the big one.
Players can react in one of two ways to being left out of a squad or a team. In my opinion, one man who reacted very well was Andy Keogh. He made the big decision to go to Millwall in January and he’s been the top Irish goal scorer in England over the last few months. Certainly, he couldn’t have done much more to put himself in the frame for the Euros. Andy is now one of those on the standby list, which is a tricky place to be, but for their own personal pride, those players will have to keep themselves ticking over right up until the point where the squad actually can’t be changed.
There has been a lot said in recent months about the manager not picking certain individuals that may be shining at club level. It’s not for me to say who the manager should pick or not pick but what I can say is that he has built up a squad over the last four years which he has moulded into a very well organised side, one that he trusts and which is very hard to beat.
People might say I am biased but I find it very hard to question him with what he has done for us in the last two qualifying campaigns.
Two players who dominated the headlines this week are James McCarthy and James McClean. My thoughts and prayers go out to James McCarthy and his family dealing with the trauma of James’ dad’s illness. I am a very family-orientated person so I can understand why James has made his decision. I don’t think the Irish fans have seen the best of James yet but, in my opinion, he is on his way to being a top class footballer. He is a very unassuming lad with a great attitude, who I’m sure will be a massive player for us in coming years.
Putting James McClean in the squad shows the manager isn’t afraid of making big decisions and giving players a chance. James has burst on the scene in the last six months and taken the Premier League by storm with some stunning displays. But, this week, he has also made the headlines for the wrong reasons, I suppose, with the whole Twitter controversy. I’m not justifying James’ comments — although, let’s be fair, he was provoked — but what I will say that there seems to be one rule for fans and another for players.
Fans are always quick to say that, in the modern game, players alienate themselves from the public.
Yet, when players do open themselves up to the public on Twitter, it seems that fans can say what they like but as soon as players react or give a little back, then it is magnified out of all proportion.
The same applies to the abuse supporters can dish out during games.
As is well known, I took a fair amount of it from the crowd at Blackburn and, once, when I was being taken off, I finally snapped and had a go back at one fan in particular. Now, if Wayne Rooney had done that, it would have made big headlines.
Because, of course, you just aren’t supposed to do that as a player. You’re supposed to be almost robotic and just not react.
The excuse you often hear from fans is that they’ve paid their money so they’re entitled to say anything they want. My view, is that, yes, they’re entitled to express their opinions but when the abuse gets really personal and crosses that line, then no ticket price justifies that.
The majority of players I know would feel the same but, at the same time, we all know that there’s not a lot we can do about it. We’re out there in the spotlight, to be cheered on but also shot down, and it’s just something you have to learn to deal with as part of this profession.
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