Harry Arter didn’t bear the anxious look yesterday of a man awaiting big news.
The Bournemouth midfielder is one of those players for whom this week’s training in Abbotstown, and the upcoming games against the Netherlands and Belarus, will serve as final auditions before Martin O’Neill names his 23-man squad for the European Championship.
The Ireland manager admitted that central midfield was an area of particular rumination ahead of the cut-off point with Arter, Stephen Quinn and Darron Gibson among the others whose fate will be decided early next week.
Arter’s case isn’t strengthened by the fact he has just one cap, against England as a substitute last summer, to his name. Further appearances have been thwarted by a season bedevilled by injury, but he is in Dublin to make up as much lost ground as he can while he can.
If he doesn’t get the nod, then so be it.
“Of course it would hurt me, yeah. It would be a disappointment, but I have had bigger disappointments in my life so I am fully prepared for both outcomes, and I will take massive confidence from even being considered and take it into next season.”
Such perspective is no surprise given it is six months since Arter and his girlfriend Rachel suffered the loss of their daughter Renee at childbirth. It was a tragedy that garnered considerable and widespread sympathy for the player and his family at the time.
Arter and his family continue to live with their loss.
He looks at a photograph of Renee on his phone every day and on his right wrist is another reminder: a brooch-like design with his little girl’s name, her date of birth ‘10-12-2015’ and the phrase ‘Setbacks Pave The Way For Comebacks’.
“I learned about what is really important in life,” he explained. “My most important thing is family, making sure everyone is healthy, making sure my partner is okay. I learnt lot about myself, really. You grow up quite a lot. I wouldn’t say I was immature, but I’d like to think I’ve matured since then. Football was something that helped me a lot at that time.”
He talked about doing his daughter proud. He already has.
A charity auction of football memorabilia was instigated by him in his girl’s memory in April and his clamber up the career ladder from the days when he played non-league for Woking has made for an inspirational tale in its own right.
He isn’t the first player to take that particular route to the top.
The narrative attached to most is one of plucky types building themselves up in the school of hard knocks after being knocked down to that level in the first place, but Arter believes the ingredients to success were always there.
“I wouldn’t say that playing non-league was giving me anything,” he offered. “I personally think it was just built inside me. I am someone that works hard, I try to be as professional as I can and see where it takes me.”
Far enough, to date.
Only a bothersome Achilles ended a run of 20 games on the trot for his club and it then forced him out of the Ireland friendlies against Slovenia and Switzerland after, by his own admission, rushing back too soon to play against Tottenham in late March.
He did that partly with Ireland in mind.
“Yeah, it was, in all honesty. Not completely. I love playing football and I hate missing out. If any medical professional tells you you can play, which at the time… I don’t want to stitch anyone up, but I was told I could play on the injury. I went and played in the Spurs game. I hadn’t trained in about five weeks and trained a couple of days before the game.
“The manager said ‘how are you feeling’ and I said ‘fine’ so it wasn’t the right thing to do. It was only purely down to the fact that I love playing and I knew there was a big opportunity for me with the Ireland games coming up. I wanted to give myself the best opportunity and unfortunately it didn’t pay off.”
By mid-April his manager Eddie Howe was suggesting Arter’s season might be over.
It wasn’t. An injection two months or so back did the trick. He featured against Everton and West Brom before the league campaign finished, although he feared his Euro ambitions had been damaged beyond repair until O’Neill sent for him.
“It’s down to how I perform here with the lads now. I’m very inexperienced in the sense of international level so I’ve got a lot to prove to the manager and I’m more than happy to accept that challenge if I get a chance against Holland.
“Any game time, or any training, is a window for me to try and do well.”
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