No sooner had Giovanni Trapattoni reported over the weekend that James McCarthy had given firm assurances that he would be joining up with the Irish squad for Wednesday’s friendly against Croatia, than the unwelcome news came through last evening that the Wigan midfielder is now out with an ankle injury.
McCarthy sustained the knock in the second-half of the club’s 1-0 home win in a pre-season friendly against Spanish side Villarreal yesterday afternoon.
The player was treated for some minutes on the pitch and, according to one eye-witness report, both the Wigan bench and supporters were visibly anxious about the possible extent of the damage as McCarthy left the field of play.
McCarthy is just the latest in a long line of players who have been forced out of Wednesday’s game although, this time, there appear to be no unduly controversial circumstances surrounding the withdrawals.
Following the no-shows back in May and June, Giovanni Trapattoni’s ultimatum to what he called the ‘disappeared’ appears to have had the desired effect, with all the squad players communicating clearly with the Irish camp ahead of this week’s friendly.
“Everything went well,” said Marco Tardelli yesterday, when asked about the effect of the manager’s ultimatum. “All players called Mary O’Brien (of the FAI’s international department). Everything is good. Maybe it’s very important that Giovanni said this.”
However, not all the news from the players was good, with McCarthy just the latest addition to an extensive injury list which includes Keith Fahey, Keith Andrews, Seamus Coleman and Damien Delaney, the latter pair’s absence further reducing the options at full-back and leading Trapattoni to recall Ciarán Clark after the Aston Villa man failed to make the cut when the original preliminary panel was named.
The Stoke pair of Jon Walters and Marc Wilson are also rated as extremely doubtful although, in keeping with the application of the manager’s new rules, both were due in to Dublin last night to be assessed by medical staff.
With John O’Shea, Kevin Kilbane, Aidan McGeady, Liam Lawrence, Paul McShane and Kevin Foley among the more familiar names who were already known to be unavailable before the weekend, Tardelli yesterday admitted that “we have many problems against what will be a very strong Croatian team. I don’t know why, always, the Irish players are injured. I don’t know. We have a problem. And we know that the players aren’t very fit. But we will try.”
Contrary to reports in some papers yesterday, Trapattoni has not already decided to leave Robbie Keane on the bench at the start against Croatia, though the out of favour Spurs man is expected to see only about 45 minutes of action so that the manager can also have a look at the pairing up front of Shane Long and Simon Cox.
Asked yesterday about Keane once again finding himself in limbo on the eve of a new season, Tardelli replied with a smile: “It was the same question last season but, at the end, he scored goals for us that were very important. During the season he will play – I just don’t know where, maybe in another team.”