Giovanni Trapattoni has hinted that Sunderland star James McClean could be handed his first competitive start for the Republic of Ireland in their World Cup qualification clash in Kazakhstan on Friday.
The Republic will try to put their disappointing Euro 2012 performance behind them this week when they start their Brazil 2014 campaign in the former Soviet Republic.
Trapattoni was keen to emphasise a fresh start for the country after their dismal showing in Poland, with new players like McClean central to that aim.
The Sunderland winger enjoyed an excellent season since Martin O’Neill took over at the Wearside club last term, but only made one substitute appearance at Euro 2012 as Trapattoni stuck to his conservative principles despite calls to throw the 23-year-old straight into action.
However, the Italian did hand McClean a start as part of a three-man strikeforce during last month’s 0-0 draw against Serbia, and could now start him in the same position in Friday’s Group C opener.
“After his 90 minutes against Serbia, his position was clear,” Trapattoni told a press conference.
“We tried to play him differently but after 20 minutes I changed his position. Maybe in Kazakhstan McClean will play up with the two strikers. That is not a problem for him.
“We have also other players who can play in that position.
“The position is different (to where he usually plays), but he can also play there. We will wait and see what the condition of the other players is but he could play there.”
With Damien Duff now retired, McClean will want to seize on the opportunity should he start in Astana on Friday evening.
One player who will not be turning out for Trapattoni is Darron Gibson.
The Everton midfielder refused to take part in Friday’s qualifier, and the friendly that follows against Oman four days later, as he is still suffering from the disappointment of Euro 2012.
Gibson put in a series of fine displays since moving to Everton in January, but the former Manchester United man was left disillusioned when he did not make it off the bench during Euro 2012.
Trapattoni said yesterday that he respects Gibson’s decision, but also insisted that the Republic will be able to cope fine without him should his self-imposed exile continue.
“In the past we were frightened about missing players, but now we already have a squad,” Trapattoni said.
“He can think about it or we go with other players. We have David Meyler, Marc Wilson, then there is Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy. All can play (in midfield), and coming back we also have (Keith) Andrews.
“When we come here, if there are players who are not coming, we build the other team.
“We have been watching also new players, maybe we will discover a new Irish player. He has to decide whether he wants to play or not.”
Aidan McGeady and Robbie Keane will start training with the team today after they were granted an extra day to fly to Dublin from Spartak Moscow and the Los Angeles Galaxy respectively.
Trapattoni has no other injury worries at present for the match against a country currently ranked 145th in the world.