Stephen Kelly, who played under Roy Hodgson at Fulham, believes the former England manager is just the man to get the best out of James McCarthy at Crystal Palace and help the midfielder refloat his international career.
“That move was needed for him as getting playing time is so important,” said former Ireland international Kelly.
“Roy, I had the pleasure of working with him, and he’s very good. The type of player James is, he will exactly suit what Roy wants. He loves a box to box midfielder who can cover the ground and is comfortable on the ball. He will give him the confidence he needs to feel good about himself again because he’s been a long time out with injuries and lack of game time.
"He needs to play regular football and you hope he can break into that Palace team and stay there as it will benefit the Ireland team.”
Speaking after contributing yesterday to Off The Ball’s latest venture, OTB Sports Radio, Kelly said he sees McCarthy as the logical long-term choice to step into the role currently being held down for Ireland by Glenn Whelan.
You would think that is the position for him. You would think that Conor Hourihane would be higher up the pitch and James would come into that role Glenn plays because he can’t go on forever. He’s still without a club at the moment and the internationals are coming quickly. If James plays the first few games of the season he could be in contention for the September internationals.
By contrast, Kelly thinks Matt Doherty, though already an established Premier League player with Wolves, will have no option but to bide his time before getting the nod from Mick McCarthy.
“It’s bizarre considering that our best player in the
Premier League last season doesn’t have a starting place in the Irish team, it’s crazy,” he opined.
“It’s such a hard position for Mick to be in but Mick sees him as a right-sided player.”
But, not, apparently, further up the pitch, to judge by the manager’s negative reaction to the experiment of playing Doherty in front of Coleman in the opening Euro qualifier in Gibraltar.
Kelly admits he was left baffled by the fall-out.
After the game, (it was) the points are done and forget about the game and he’s not really judging anything from that game. But he judged Matt. The only person who came out of it judged was Matt, even though the game wasn’t judged. It didn’t make sense.
What about Doherty playing as a left-full?
“I did it for much of my career, I probably played as many games at left back as I did right back,” the former Spurs man pointed out.
“The problem is Enda Stevens is playing really well so are you going to push him out? Mick likes the balance of having a naturally right and left-footed player. If Enda wasn’t to play or his club form dropped then the first person you would think would get an opportunity to play there would be Matt.
“I think he will get the odd opportunity to play on the wing, or if Seamus (Coleman) picks up an injury which could happen over the course of the season. And after the big injuries he’s had, there is more chance of that occurring because of getting older and the nature of what happened to him.
“But if Matt gets an opportunity at right back and does really well, will Mick stick him in again? That’s another big question.
He knows Seamus is his number one at the moment, but if Matt plays that position and excels it will give him more of a problem.
Meanwhile, Coleman could first be facing a battle on the club front after Everton signed another right-back, Djibril Sidibe, on a season-long loan from Monaco. But Kelly has no doubt about the Irish captain’s determination to rise to any challenge.
“Seamus is a fighter,” he said. “Last season he probably got a lot of criticism early on and was in and out of the team, but towards the end he got strong again and built himself back up and got himself in positions to be a starter.
“Everton are trying everything to get into that top six, financially they are probably the team that has pushed the most without actually succeeding.
“They have to have competition for places and Seamus knows that, but he is so tenacious in everything he does, he’s not going to give that up lightly.”