Frustration levels haven’t quite reached the red zone for Amber Barrett at FC Koln, but the beacon is starting to flash danger.
Joining one of the Bundesliga’s perennial strugglers in 2019 guaranteed challenges for the Donegal native, yet Koln’s return to the top-flight has coincided with her most testing phase on a personal level. The Ireland striker is still awaiting her first league start after six games, playing no more than 20 minutes in each of her five substitute appearances. Last Sunday’s last-minute entrance triggered the most rage.
It’s not the snub that rankles, more the reasons behind it. Barrett simply has no idea how she descended from double-figure goalscorer in their promotion season to the periphery and beyond.
“If you’d ask me last Sunday, you would have got a very fiery response,” she says of her club situation a week on from the brief cameo against Carl Zeiss Jena, Koln’s first win of the season.
“I’m just a wee bit frustrated. I’m always honest if someone is playing better or I’m not training as good but I’m not getting a look-in no matter what I’m doing.
“Something’s not right if I’m not playing. I feel good and my head’s good which is important. I haven’t killed anybody yet!”
Sascha Glass better watch out. Barrett feels no resentment towards her coach, noting his influence on her career and the decision to hand her a new contract, but the silence creates the loudest emotion.
Any request for feedback from the hierarchy?
“Oh, I did a couple of weeks ago. They said to stay positive but my idea of positive is different,” says Barrett.
“They’re not very helpful in terms of what I need to do. The first five games were tough. We played Bayern Munich, Wolfsburg, Hoffenheim, and Frankfurt. Those four are top of the league. Beating Carl Zeiss Jena last weekend was a huge result because they’re the team that will be thereabouts for relegation.”
Despite her annoyance, the 25-times capped attacker won’t be slapping a transfer request on the desk of Glass on her return to Germany from international duty.
“I really love FC Koln and am very happy there. Sometimes you need a wee bit more guidance. Seriously, the coach has been good for me and very helpful but I just want a little bit of feedback.
“You don’t always get it but this is professional sport. You’re not going to get everything handed on a plate. Sometimes you have to go through these little periods. There are 21 players in the squad and 10 are saying the same things as myself.
“You can see from training every day that we’re pushing each other all the time. That’s my attitude.”
Her determined approach is one Ireland could benefit from in their time of need in Tuesday night’s World Cup qualifier in Finland. Known primarily as a standalone forward for Ireland, most memorably in the scoreless draw at European champions Netherlands four years ago, Barrett has been converted into a deeper support act from midfield. That’s the role occupied by the 25-year-old for last month’s win over Australia and, again, when called upon from the bench last Thursday as Ireland were chasing an equaliser against Sweden.
“Vera had a conversation with me in the last camp where she mentioned she wanted me to play this role,” says Barrett.
“It absolutely took me by surprise because I would always have considered myself as an out and out No 9.
“If you look at the best players in the world, they’re all flexible. Katie McCabe can play left midfield or left wing, even go in as a No 10.
“The same with Denise O’Sullivan. We need to have that flexibility in our positions. It’s something I have to learn and adapt to.”
Ireland cannot afford to allow the Finns to open up a nine-point lead in the battle for second place in the pool. With Pauw set to freshen up her team, the versatile Barrett will be primed to do a job in securing at least a draw from the Helsinki mission.
“I know for a fact that Finland will be thinking that they have to get three points off us,” she observed. “Even at this early stage of the campaign, it’s definitely going to be in many ways a six-pointer.”
Be it red alert or proceed with caution, Amber will be at the ready.
These two have history. Quinn was in the infancy of her professional career in the Swedish Damallsvenskan when she encountered Sallstrom, the striker chasing her 50th international goal on Tuesday night. The forward, who turned 33 in July, bulldozed through an Irish defence featuring Quinn too, scoring in both of the Finns’ victories during the 2017 Euro qualifying campaign.
It was interesting that Pauw namechecked the attacking midfielder as one of the most potent threats Ireland will face. The 30-year-old is considered a player who didn’t quite realise her potential of reaching the Bundesliga or English WSL, staying on the Swedish circuit, but one capable of turning a game. Energetic Finn, while useful at right-back, might be better served shadowing the Växjö ace’s runs from deep.
Kuikka was rested for the trip to Tbilisi and will return tasked with building the home side’s attacks from the back. Like Denise O’Sullivan, she is marvelling in the US league but has spoken of her desire to reach a first-ever World Cup like the many stars on that stage. Payne, another US-based star, will be depended on to stretch the Finns with her pace.