ANTHONY STOKES has done his international prospects under Giovanni Trapattoni no favours by pulling out of the Republic of Ireland squad claiming tiredness.
The striker communicated his decision on Friday to withdraw from the panel for this week’s Carling Nations Cup games and the Euro qualifier against Macedonia on June 4 — a day before he played a substitute’s role in Celtic’s 3-0 Scottish Cup Final win against Motherwell on Saturday.
Asked yesterday if he was annoyed by the explanation for the player’s decision, Marco Tardelli bluntly replied “Yes”.
Speaking at Gannon Park in Malahide, where the Irish squad train this morning, Ireland’s assistant manager said: “It is possible to be tired because the season is long and hard. But for the national team, for me, it’s impossible to be tired. It’s possible to think about your club, yes, but my opinion was that I always thought about the national team.”
“I believe him,” Tardelli added, though without great conviction. “But many years ago it was very different.
“It’s always disappointing that players don’t come into the international team.”
However, the Italian said that Stokes’ decision did not automatically mean the end of his international career opportunities. “The Irish team needs all players,” he said. “The next time he is fit it will be good.”
Stokes’ withdrawal brings to three the number of strikers who are now unavailable with Tardelli confirming that Kevin Doyle (knee) is definitely out and, not for the first time, Caleb Folan (thigh) has sent a sick note.
All of which means that the Irish management team will have more reason than ever to keep fingers crossed that Shane Long comes through Reading’s promotion play-off against Swansea on this day week.
“That will be very important for us,” said Tardelli, thinking ahead to Ireland’s big game in Skopje.
“We will hope that he does not pick up an injury. He is a good player. When we first came to Dublin, he was a good player but a little shy. I believed in him then and now he plays very well. He is strong and skilful, the present for us but also the future. We look forward to other players developing like him.”
Tardelli also said he expects the lure of a European Championship qualifier will mean Robbie Keane will be doubly determined to end his miserable club season in England on a high.
“Robbie is a professional,” he said. “Remember people said he would have a problem the last time against Macedonia because he hadn’t played (Keane scored in a 2-1 victory over the visitors at the Aviva). Now, he has another good incentive to show everyone, including other clubs, that he will be a good player to have next season.”
Tardelli added that he fully expects Keane to stay in the Premier League next season, with promoted QPR – a club with whom the London-based Italian is close — one of the candidates to get the Irish captain’s signature.
Meanwhile, more bad news on an extensive injury front for Ireland – “it’s a war,” said Tardelli, only half in jest – is that Ciarán Clark has also been forced to withdraw from the squad with a back problem which has spread to his hamstring. Ironically, it was in an accidental training ground clash with the Aston Villa man, before the game in Dublin against Macedonia in March, that Sean St Ledger sustained the knee injury which has confined him to the sidelines since. However, the Preston centre-half is still due in to link up with the squad today, when he will be assessed by the medical team.
On a happier note, and in stark contrast to his anger at Anthony Stokes, Tardelli was visibly pleased to say that Richard Dunne is reporting for duty for the Northern Ireland and Scotland friendlies, even though suspension rules him out of the game in Skopje. “I am happy he comes – he could have said he was tired,” Tardelli pointedly observed. “He shows very good commitment. Many players in his situation, after a long season, would opt to go on holiday. Not him. He’s the future captain, probably.”
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