Giovanni Trapattoni has expressed complete confidence Robbie Keane, Shay Given, Richard Dunne and Damien Duff will all be available for Ireland’s World Cup campaign, which kicks off in Kazakhstan next month.
Speaking at Gannon Park in Malahide, where a depleted Irish squad gathered ahead of Wednesday’s friendly against Serbia in Belgrade, the manager was asked if he was clear in his own mind about the intentions of Ireland’s senior players in the light of much speculation about possible retirement by one or more in the aftermath of those crushingly disappointing Euro finals.
“Very clear,” Trapattoni smiled in response. “I spoke with them after the Euros and said that for this friendly I would leave them at home. They said, ‘no problem, good luck with the game’. But they will be available for the World Cup campaign and will be in the squad for Kazakhstan.
“I am clear with the players always. It’s important that even if they are not in this squad, they are available for the next campaign.”
Despite concerns about the player’s fitness because of a groin injury, Trapattoni was also upbeat about the prospect of Dunne being fit for that game in Astana on September 7, but appeared much more resigned to losing Dunne’s centre-half partner Sean St Ledger to a knee injury.
Absentees are also very much on the manager’s mind this week, as a weakened squad prepares to fly out to Belgrade tomorrow. The latest to cry off are Wolves’ Kevin Doyle (infected bruise) and Stoke’s Marc Wilson, who is ruled out with a viral infection.
Also doubtful are Stephen Ward of Wolves and Keith Treacy of Burnley, both of whom will undergo scans this morning.
Following on from Wes Hoolahan’s inability to answer the call because of an Achilles problem, Trapattoni revealed yesterday he had looked to bring in Hoolahan’s Norwich team-mate Anthony Pilkington, only to discover that he was unavailable because of a hamstring problem incurred in a friendly game at the weekend.
However, the manager appears happy that Pilkington is prepared to commit to the Republic, adding that he would definitely have been added to the squad for this week’s friendly but for his injury.
Definitely in, however, is Wigan’s James McCarthy, despite his father’s continuing health problems. And Trapattoni paid a warm tribute to the midfielder, likening his play to that of Michel Platini.
“I think James can do very well for us,” he said.
“He is one of the players who can see what he has to do before he even receives the ball. He can pass immediately. He reminds me a little of Platini. He has very good quality.”
McCarthy seems certain to start in Belgrade, given that Keith Andrews — suspended for the game in Kazakhstan — is being rested and Darron Gibson has had to withdraw through injury. The Wigan player’s presence might also see Trapattoni experimenting with a 4-3-3 formation.
“I’m not sure but I will probably try that, depending on what I see from the players in training,” said the manager.
“We can always go 4-4-2 again but we want to look at his adaptation if we can. If there is no reaction on the pitch, we can play as we know.
“I don’t expect a great performance as the players are still in pre-season but I would like to see their adaptability on the pitch, especially because we have one or two who are young.
“But, ultimately, it is not about the system, it is about the quality of the players. And, always, we look to getting the result.”
With captain Keane and vice-captain Given not included in the travelling party, Trapattoni said that, as the most senior player in the panel, John O’Shea will skipper the side against Serbia on Wednesday.
Late call-up Damien Delaney of Ipswich Town arrived at Gannon Park with the training already in full swing yesterday and there was also an unavoidable delay for James McClean, whose car broke down on the way from Derry. Just to confirm his bona fides, the Sunderland winger took a photo of the stricken vehicle which he sent to the FAI before making other arrangements to link up with the squad at their Portmarnock base.
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