DARRON GIBSON has become the latest player to withdraw from an ever-diminishing Ireland squad for Saturday’s Euro 2012 qualifier in Skopje, having notified the management team that he will be unavailable with a groin problem.
Giovanni Trapattoni is clearly less than impressed with the late withdrawal by the Manchester United player who last turned out for his club in the Champions League second-leg semi-final defeat of Schalke 04 on May 4 but who was expected to join up with the Irish squad after Saturday night’s final at Wembley.
However, the manager opted for a jocular tone when breaking the news to the media at Gannon Park yesterday.
“Gibson has sent us an SMS,” he said with a theatrical sigh. “It’s his groin. In the world it is always groin. It’s the new disease. Where is groin? You have to understand that I have 40 years in football. I worked with doctors in Italy, Germany, Portugal. All players are a little bit the same. Doctor, where is the injury?’ ‘Groin’.”
The manager’s comic routine might have been a disarming attempt to avoid turning yet another late withdrawal into yet another media drama, but his smile scarcely masked his frustration at losing a potential member of his starting eleven for Saturday’s game against Macedonia so late in the build-up.
Indeed, it would have been an even bigger blow had Trapattoni not had the reassurance of seeing Keith Andrews successfully come through two Carling Nations Cup games in five days.
The Blackburn Rovers man, having recovered from a long complicated injury now looks set to make his first start of the European Championship qualifying game in Skopje as a partner in midfield for Stoke City’s Glenn Whelan, who is expected to recover in time from the ankle knock which restricted him to light training yesterday.
But while Sean St Ledger joined the Stoke man in some running at Gannon Park, Trapattoni does not expect the Preston centre-half to be fit for Saturday.
“I think at this moment it will be very difficult for him to play,” he said. “We will monitor him but we also have John O’Shea and (Darren) O’Dea who has already played against the Macedonian strikers. Maybe St Ledger will play against Italy but, at this moment, not Macedonia. We need the players 100 per cent fit for this game because it will be a very tough game.”
Keith Fahey (swollen knee) is currently another doubt but there are growing indications that Paul McShane could be in line for a recall at right-back having impressed the manager in the 1-0 win over Scotland.
One certain starter will be Shay Given whose fine display in that match came as no surprise to Trapattoni. “His performance was an example of the old player who can benefit from all that experience, and isn’t badly affected if he is not playing regularly,” said the manager. “Robbie Keane the same — I saw him, fresh all week, even better than when he plays all the time. He needs only two or three training sessions to get back up to peak performance. Experience is so important to players like him and Shay.”
Meanwhile, Trapattoni calmly dismissed Ian Harte’s criticism over the weekend that he doesn’t watch enough Irish players in action for their clubs.
“I can learn more, more, more from DVDs,” said Trapattoni. “80 per cent of the players I have gone to see usually didn’t play or played only ten minutes. In one day on television or DVD I can see three or four games every Saturday, every Sunday. As well as that, we have not only Marco (Tardelli) watching players but three or four scouts giving us references.
“Harte, we know Harte. (Stephen) Ward for me now is better, he can improve. Harte is 33. I already said that we look to improve this squad. Or else we stay again with Lee Carsley, with Steven Reid. In the past it was like this. Now, no. In two years we have changed the squad, bringing in many young players. Who knew about (Simon) Cox before? We look for young energy. You need fresh energy.”
And Trapattoni said that he didn’t agree with Liam Brady’s claim, made on RTE on Sunday night, that there is a media campaign designed to force the Italian from his job.
“I never said this, I haven’t this opinion,” said Trapattoni. “I think we have made until now a good job. We take the team, we change it a little bit, we discover other players. It’s important if we can conclude this work. I don’t have any preconceptions about any of the players, coming or not. I do what I think is best for the national team. My personal opinion is that when I meet people in the city, they are happy.”
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