In a training selection at Malahide yesterday which featured most of tomorrow’s likely starters, it was Cox who got the nod ahead of James McClean in that position and, afterwards, assistant manager Marco Tardelli talked up the Nottingham Forest man’s credentials.
Asked if Cox was an option to start against Sweden, the Italian said: “Yes, I think. I don’t know who we’ll play against Sweden but Simon Cox for me is a very good player. He can play left, right, striker and maybe also midfield. A professional player who has played in the Premier League must be able to play anywhere. He is good on the left but I don’t know whether he will play there against Sweden.”
While McClean and Robbie Brady are other candidates who could yet replace McGeady, the biggest question mark surrounds Anthony Pilkington whose ongoing management of a recurring knee problem saw the Norwich man once again devote most of his time to working in the gym yesterday.
“He was in the pool because he is following the programme of his club,” said Tardelli.
“On Tuesday he was in training and he played a match. After one day of training, he needs to stay one day of rest.”
Would it be a risk to play him on Friday?
“No I don’t think so because he was on the bench for the last match of Norwich. If he was on the bench it means he could play and also for us.”
Encouraging news for Ireland is that Marc Wilson, having recovered from a bruised foot, took a full part in training yesterday and, barring any negative reaction, is in line to start at left-back tomorrow night.
Richard Dunne is also still on course make his competitive comeback in the centre of defence though no decision about his possible involvement against Austria next Tuesday will be made until the weekend.
“I don’t know, it depends,” said Tardelli. “After the match against Sweden we can decide but now he is fit. We will speak with him after the game and if he is fit it is possible for him to play two matches.”
Turning his attention to the other end of the pitch, Tardelli attributed Ireland’s failure to win against major opposition to too many goal chances squandered.
“It is important for us to have Robbie Keane, for his experience and because he puts the ball in the net,” Tardelli said.
And when it was pointed out to Tardelli that Shane Long has scored only one competitive game for his country — in the 3-2 Euro qualifier defeat to Russia in Dublin — the Italian observed: “I think Shane Long is very young. For me he is very good player, strong physically, good head, can play left or right very quickly. I think he can improve his finishing. It is the main thing he can improve. Against Wales he had chances but the important thing is that he was there in the position to score.”