Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tony Adams: Wilson can be Premier League star

Tony Adams has backed Marc Wilson to continue making a Pompey impact.

The Irish defender continued his progress in the Portsmouth starting eleven and produced an outstanding display at Arsenal.

He was almost the architect of a shock Blues opener when his deep cross from the right was headed against the post by Peter Crouch in the 24th minute.

But his all-round performance was another massive plus point in the development of the home-grown product.

Wilson has now started three of Pompey's last four matches at right-back – and his manager believes it's just the start.

Adams said: 'The kid's fantastic and if he makes mistakes he makes them honestly. It can only be beneficial for him, it's a big positive.

'The first choice would be Glen (Johnson), but to get that level of experience for Marc can only be great for his career, it really can.

'I rate Marc highly – I think he's got every chance and I've been absolutely delighted with him.

'He's been given a chance and he's taking it.

I think he can be a real Premier League player.'

Friday, December 26, 2008

Keane double secures Boxing Day victory

Ireland international Robbie Keane can now safely assume that he will not be leaving Liverpool in January.

Two weeks ago, the Dubliner might have gone to bed at night worrying whether rumours of him becoming surplus to requirements at Anfield, just six months after his £20 million arrival from Tottenham, might actually become reality with the opening of the transfer window.

But having taken his tally to three goals in two games in the space of five days with his second-half double against Bolton, Keane not only banished any fears for his future, he also gave a glimpse as to why manager Rafael Benitez invested so much of Liverpool's money in the forward.

Keane, whose match-winning display was matched by that of the hugely impressive Xabi Alonso, did more than simply score two crisp goals to take his tally to five goals in seventeen league games. He pulled Bolton's overworked defenders all over the pitch, ran himself into the ground and, not insignificantly, he was even allowed to complete the ninety minutes, a rare privilege for the Irishman.

But, this being Liverpool, keeping everything on an even keel is the only way and Keane's performance was not afforded any special praise by assistant manager Sammy Lee, who once again took charge of the dug-out with Benitez only fit enough to watch from the directors' box following his recent kidney stones ailment.

Lee said: "It's always nice to see any Liverpool player score, never mind Robbie Keane. It's never been about individuals and Robbie has always worked very hard.

"He is a talented player and we know the quality that he provides, so we have never been worried by his performances. You would have to ask the boy himself, but I don't think that Robbie has ever been lacking in confidence. We know what he gives us."

With Fernando Torres still short of full fitness following a month-long hamstring lay-off, the prospect of Keane and Torres scoring goals together suggests that Liverpool can maintain their title push and they head for Newcastle on Sunday have retained top spot in the Premier League.

Lee added: "Being top is important, but this club prepares to be top of the league, not fifth, sixth or seventh and we are where we want to be at this moment in time."

Although Bolton began in determined mood, the defensive frailties of left-back Jlloyd Samuel opened the door for Albert Riera to score Liverpool's opener and set the home side on their way.

Samuel, who was twice easily beaten by Yossi Benayoun in the early stages, allowed Riera to escape at the near post and volley Steven Gerrard's corner past the exposed Jussi Jaaskelainen on 26 minutes and, from that moment on, Bolton never showed any signs of hauling themselves level, even when the hopeless Samuel was replaced by Kevin Davies at the interval.

Davies's introduction made no difference, however, as Liverpool merely upped the tempo and the crucial second goal came on 53 minutes when Keane beat Jaaskelainen with an unstoppable left-foot effort into the top corner after latching onto Gerrard's throughball.

From being on the verge of being written off as an expensive flop, Keane now appears to be finding form at just the right time and the Irish forward scored again five minutes later to take his league tally to five goals when he finished off a breathtaking move, started by goalkeeper Pepe Reina and moved on by Alonso and Yossi Benayoun, with a tap-in from six yards.

But despite being allowed to see out the game by Benitez and Lee, Keane could not dig out a hat-trick goal. Still, the victory was already assured and, for Bolton manager Gary Megson, the outcome of the game merely bolstered his belief that the Premier League is becoming a tale of the big four and the bottom sixteen.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Time for McGeady to move on from Strachan and Celtic

There will always be battles, disagreements & personality clashes within any team set-up and Strachan has had his fair share of those over the last three years at Celtic, for example when he got rid of the nucleus of the O’Neill team, Chris Sutton, Petrov, Alan Thompson etc….

But the McGeady episode feels different, it feels personal rather than team related. Sutton, Thompson etc.. were all senior, mature players who had a strong influence within the dressing room and Strachan felt he had to make changes to take control of the dressing room and mould his own team, which is perfectly understandable.

I just don’t get why he seems to have a real dislike for the young player. Even last season, when McGeady had a terrific year and won almost every player of the year award available in Scotland, Strachan was always lukewarm in his praise for McGeady, and while he certainly recognised his ability, he was never animated in his conversations regarding his player.

Although, he was open enough in a BBC interview, prior to his appointment as Celtic boss, when he called McGeady a “traitor” and said he should be “hung, drawn and quartered” over his decision to represent Ireland rather than Scotland.

The poor McGeady/Strachan relationship has bubbled away over the last three years and it it’s said that Tommy Burns was the ‘referee’ who stopped it boiling over during that time and perhaps the sad passing of Tommy Burns has simply allowed Strachan the chance to force McGeady’s hand. Although perhaps it is only now that Strachan feels he has enough control to engineer the end of McGeady’s time at Celtic Park.

McGeady was obviously wrong to shout abuse at the manager after the Hearts game, even if he did feel he was being unfairly singled out (as was the case earlier in the season, when Strachan banned him from the room during the post match talk after the Rangers defeat).

To be honest, I don’t really care if Celtic win,lose or draw every week and I am more concerned that Irish players are playing regularly, progressing and thus improving our chances on the international stage, and for McGeady, just like Darren O’Dea, their international prospects would be better served, if they are far away from Parkhead.

I don’t think McGeady will ever be a superstar, but at 22 and with a wealth of experience behind him, the right team and manager could mould him into a very important player for Ireland in the future.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Marc Wilson shines in Pompey debut

Ireland international Marc Wilson basked in a fine full Portsmouth debut but then declared: I want to go out on loan.

The 21-year-old from Co. Antrim, who had previously made just one substitute appearance for the first team, was handed his first start in an unfamiliar right-back role in last night's 3-0 UEFA cup win over Heerenveen.

But after an impressive all-round display that also included an inch-perfect cross for Peter Crouch's opener, the Republic of Ireland under-21 international revealed he was again keen to leave Fratton Park in a loan deal to gain more first-team experience.

In Wednesday night’s meaningless three-goal UEFA Cup victory over the Dutch side Heerenveen, Adams gave a full first team debut to 20-year-old Marc Wilson and later added the best possible endorsement of his talents a young defender could hope to receive.

Adams played the young Irishman at right back and after a nervous first five minutes he settled down to lay on one headed

And after the 6 ft 2 inch youngster earned the man of the match accolade from most neutrals in the press box Adams revealed: 'His attitude was very good - and he’s not even a right back.'

Wilson, who has previously enjoyed loan spells at Bournemouth and Luton, said: 'The manager has told me I'm part of his plans but I think both of us want to get me out on loan to play some football.

'We've got Glen Johnson who is a great right-back and has been different class for us this season so I think it will be very hard for me to get into the team at this moment in time. So I think the best thing is for me to get out on loan and play some football, although if the chance comes along to play in the team, of course I will take it.

'I've spoken to the gaffer and he thinks it would be a good idea to go out and get some experience at a Championship club.'

Although Wilson is predominantly a central midfielder or a centre-back, he slotted in effortlessly at right-back and produced a succession of inviting crosses – particularly in the first half.

Wilson said: 'It was great to be out there playing.

'Right-back is not my position – generally, I'm a midfield player but I enjoyed every minute of it. But I wasn't very nervous before the game and I felt pretty comfortable.'

Speaking after last nights win, Portsmouth boss Tony Adans said:

“I was delighted with Marc Wilson. I think he’s got every chance. He’s two-footed, can head the ball and is quick and strong.

“He put in some tremendous crosses from right-back, but I do see him as a centre-back. I think he can do it in the Premier League as a central defender.

“He needs to be playing every week. Unfortunately I think the best thing for me to do with him is to get him out on loan, maybe to a Championship side. I don’t think reserve-team football is probably good enough for him to learn his trade.

“He’s that close, but obviously at the moment he’s not better than Glen Johnson, Sol Campbell or Sylvain Distin.

“His attitude is fantastic. He wants to train and is the first one out and last one in.”

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Given and O'Shea among FAI shortlists

Shay Given, John O'Shea and Kevin Doyle were short-listed for the senior international player of the year at today's announcement of the 19th eircom/FAI International Awards.

Bohemians dominate the League of Ireland awards with two of the three nominations after their double winning season. Owen Heary and Brian Murphy are joined by Keith Fahy, who starred for St. Patrick's Athletic this season including strong performances in the club's Uefa Cup games.

Reading striker Doyle, Manchester United's O'Shea and Newcastle goalkeeper Given were some of the best performers since Giovanni Trapattoni took over as Republic of Ireland boss.

The nominations were chosen by a panel from the Soccer Writers' Association of Ireland and are divided into a number of categories. They include a Hall of Fame Award, a Special Merit Award and an International Personality Award which will be awarded on the night.

The awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, February 8th in Citywest Hotel, Saggart, and all winners will be announced live on the night. The ceremony will be televised live on RTÉ Two with coverage from 8pm.

eircom/FAI 19th International Awards nominations:

Kevin Doyle - Reading
Shay Given - Newcastle United
John O'Shea - Manchester United

Aiden McGeady - Celtic
Andy Keogh - Wolves
Stephen Rice - Shamrock Rovers

Owen Garvan - Ipswich Town
Stephen Quinn - Sheffield United
Darren O'Dea - Celtic

International Goal of the Year
Robbie Keane v Cyprus (H) 15/10/08
Andy Keogh v Serbia (H) 24/05/08
Kevin Doyle v Georgia (A) 6/09/08

League Of Ireland
Owen Heary (Bohemian FC)
Brian Murphy (Bohemian FC)
Keith Fahey (St. Patrick's Ath/Birmingham City)

U19 Nominees
Michael Spillane - Norwich
Brendan Moloney - Nottingham Forest
Garry Breen - Hereford United

U17 Nominees
Conor Hourihane - Sunderland
Ger Hanley - Salthill Devon
Aaron Doran - Blackburn Rovers

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Ireland hints at Ireland return

Manchester City midfielder Stephen Ireland is ready to return to the international scene with Ireland, according to his father.

Michael Ireland claims his son wants to make himself available to Republic manager Giovanni Trapattoni in 2009.

The City star, who has been in superb form for his club this season, decided to opt out of international football after the controversy surrounding his withdrawal from the squad in September 2007.

Talking to the Irish Daily Star Sunday, Michael, 39, said: "The country needs him, he's a good player and he'll go back in his own time.

"He's just focusing on his family right now and Man City. He's keeping his head down, but he'll be back hopefully next year."

He added: "I would never put pressure on him but I'd love to see him at the next World Cup."
Asked if he was considering a return himself, the Cobh-born 22-year-old added: "Yeah, but I'm trying to keep my head down at the moment."

Criticism was heaped on Ireland when he asked to return home early before a crucial Euro 2008 qualifier against the Czech Republic claiming his grandmother had died, as it later transpired that he lied about the death because his partner had miscarried.

Ireland's next game is a World Cup 2010 qualifier against Georgia at Croke Park in Dublin on February 11.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Stephen Quinn hoping for Ireland call up

After receiving glowing references from his club manager, Sheffield United midfielder Stephen Quinn is confident that he can attract similar attention from Ireland manager, Giovanni Trapattoni.

Last month, Kevin Blackwell and United's academy director Ron Reid both praised the 22-year-old after his stunning strike in the 5-2 demolition of Charlton, and voiced concerns about Quinn's failure to receive a call up to the full Ireland squad since the beginning of Trapattoni's reign.

However Quinn, who is expected to make his 23rd start of the season in United colours when Burnley visit Bramall Lane tomorrow, believes that more competent displays like the five-star showing at The Valley will eventually thrust him firmly into the Italian's thinking.

"I played a lot for the (Ireland] under 21s last year, so I am looking to step up into the full squad," Quinn admitted.

"I just want to concentrate on playing for Sheffield United, who pay my wages, but I would love to play for Ireland - it would be a dream come true.

"I can play out there on the left or in the middle, I am not fussy and would give an arm and a leg to play any where the manager wants me."

Of course, appearing regularly on the stage of the Barclays Premier League would do Quinn's international prospects no harm – his last call-up to the full Ireland squad coming after goals against Aston Villa and Portsmouth during United's ill-fated top flight campaign two seasons ago.

Last week's draw against Ipswich – current employers of Quinn's brother Alan - at Portman Road saw United slip to 5th, but the Dubliner is confident of adding to his four-goal tally and outlined what he believes he brings to the team.

"With me not been the quickest, I like to link up with the strikers, whilst I always work hard and do my best," he continued.

"I am also keen to contribute a few more goals during the second half of the campaign.

"The body is feeling great at the moment and hopefully if I can keep playing regularly at club level then I may be included in the next squad."

Monday, December 1, 2008

Steve Carr announces retirement from football

Former Ireland international Stephen Carr has announced his retirement from football.

The 32-year-old has been without a club since his contract ran out with Newcastle United at the end of last season.

Carr began his career at Tottenham Hotspur in 1993 where he established himself as one of the best right backs in the Premier League.

The Dubliner moved to Newcastle United in 2004, although he only played 78 times over four years due to a persistent knee injury.

Injury also prevented Carr from travelling to the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan with Mick McCarthy's squad.

Carr won 44 caps for the Republic of Ireland and also represented his country at Schoolboy, Youth, Under-18 and Under-21 level.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Georgios Samaras: It won't be long until Cillian Sheridan is first pick

Comeback man Georgios Samaras has hailed Irish hitkid Cillian Sheridan for his superb stand-in performances leading the line for Celtic.

The fit-again striker is set to push the Co. Cavan 19-year-old back on to the bench for Tuesday's Champions League crunch in Aalborg - but reckons it's only a matter of time before Sheridan is one of the first names on the team sheet.

Hoops boss Gordon Strachan was forced to throw his rookie in at the deep end for the Champions League doubleheader against Manchester United after an injury crisis robbed him of Samaras and Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.

But the Irish kid took on the task brilliantly and went on to clock up a run of nine games including his starring role in the recent SPL victory over Kilmarnock when he scored a double.

During that time Samaras, who hurt his knee on international duty with Greece in October, was working behind the scenes to help the Parkhead prodigy with advice and encouragement.

And the 23-year-old admitted watching Sheridan emerge from the shadows to claim a first-team jersey was no surprise to those who train with him every day.

Georgios said: "Maybe people were surprised but I'm not. We worked together in pre-season and he has talent.

"He has the ability to be a striker for many years at Celtic. He's a natural and there's lots more to come from him.

"When you see a kid with his ability you are just waiting for him to explode.

"Now he has grabbed his chance he has a big future."

It's fair to say Samaras sees a lot of himself in Sheridan having made his first-team debut for Dutch side Heerenveen when he was just 17.

Perhaps that's why the Greek star has been so keen to work with him in training. Samaras said: "I was 16 when I went to Holland and after one year I played my first game so I know exactly how Cillian is feeling.

"That's why I try to help him. It's difficult when you are so young and start to play for the first team.

"You need somebody by your side who will try to help you.

That's important.

"So I have been talking to Cillian all the time in training, telling him when to ask for the ball, how to keep the ball, everything.

"We worked together during pre-season and when you see such a talented player all you can do is try to push him to do more and more. You do that because you can see he has the ability."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ireland 2-3 Poland

Giovanni Trapattoni tasted defeat for the first time as Ireland boss despite a remarkable late fightback against Poland.

Leo Beenhakker's Poland side looked to be heading for a comfortable victory at Croke Park when substitute Roger Guerreiro added a 47th-minute second goal to skipper Mariusz Lewandowski's early opener.

But having earlier seen midfielder Damien Duff pass up three glorious opportunities, Ireland belatedly discovered their touch in front of goal to set up a tense finish.

Substitute Stephen Hunt reduced the deficit with an 88th-minute penalty, and after Robert Lewandowski had restored his side's two-goal advantage, fellow newcomer Keith Andrews marked his senior international debut with an injury-time strike.

Despite a rousing finish, however, Trapattoni's men were left in little doubt as to the task ahead of them when they return to action next year.

Three wins and as many draws from his first six matches, and seven World Cup points from a possible nine, had given the Italian a creditable start to his reign.

But just as a nation started to dream of South Africa 2010, Poland turned up to remind the the 69-year-old and his players, if ever they needed it, that the job has only just begun.

Trapattoni handed senior international debuts to substitutes Andrews and Noel Hunt and a first start to Caleb Folan on a night which saw Kevin Kilbane win his 92nd cap to move into second place in the country's all-time appearance list.

While the manager always intended to use the game to look at some of the emerging members of his squad, he admitted he would have one eye on the result, and to that end, he will have had mixed feelings as he headed for the dressing room at half-time.

Hull City striker Folan, deputising for injured skipper Robbie Keane, was a real handful for the Polish defence, and linked nicely with both partner Kevin Doyle and wide-men Duff and Andy Keogh.

However, it was Mariusz Lewandowski who proved the most potent force in either penalty area during the opening 45 minutes.

His third-minute glancing header from Lukasz Gargula's free-kick put his side ahead with Folan unable to prevent him opening the scoring, and the towering midfielder was left criminally unmarked as he met Jacek Krzynowek's 27th-minute corner but this time, could not hit the target.

Indeed, the visitors, roared on by a sizeable proportion of the Polish community currently living in Ireland, might have had the game won by the break had lone striker Pawel Brozek not passed up a golden opportunity five minutes before the break.

Richard Dunne, who had dashed back to Manchester to be with his pregnant wife last night before returning to Dublin this afternoon, miscued a clearance into Brozek's path, but then recovered superbly to dispossess him before he could shoot.

But for all Poland's impressive play going forward, they too looked vulnerable at the back, and they were grateful that Duff had left his shooting boots back on Tyneside.

He lifted a fifth-minute right-foot shot high over after Doyle and Folan had created space for him, and then fired wastefully into the side-netting as he ran on to Doyle's 29th-minute pass.

Duff did well to work his way into a shooting position after combining well with Folan two minutes before the break, but he slipped as he went for goal and skewed his effort well wide.

Beenhakker made two changes at the break and one of the new arrivals, Guerreiro, wasted little time in making an impact.

The Brazilian-born midfielder had only been only the pitch a little more than a minute when he ran on to Gargula's flick and dispatched a left-foot shot emphatically past Shay Given and into the bottom corner.

It should have been 3-0 with 59 minutes gone when Robert Lewandowski fired wide from close range, although the real fireworks were still to come.

Trapattoni made five second-half substitutions and Beenhakker four, and the result was explosive.

Alex Bruce headed just over and Shane Long saw a looping effort cleared off the line by defender Dariusz Dudka, and Ireland's reward finally came with two minutes remaining when Stephen Hunt converted from the spot after Long had been felled by Tomasz Jodlowiec.

Robert Lewandowski's 89th-minute strike killed the Irish celebrations in their infancy, but Andrews left his mark on an astonishing end to the game in injury-time.

Monday, November 17, 2008

If Trapattoni is happy - then I am too - Darron Gibson

Praise from Ireland coach, as well as Red Devils boss Ferguson, is all that really matters to Darron Gibson

Darron Gibson didn't read a newspaper or listen to a radio show after he made his Croke Park debut in last month's World Cup qualifier against Cyprus.

He got a pat on the back and a 'well done' in the ear from the men who matter most in his career, Giovanni Trapattoni and Alex Ferguson, and that's what is truly important to the 21-year-old.

Trapattoni caused some degree of surprise by choosing the United rookie -- who only made his Premier League debut for United in Saturday's thrashing of Stoke City -- in central midfield for the clash with Cyprus, Derry native Gibson getting the nod ahead of more experienced men like Andy Reid, Liam Miller or Joey O'Brien.

Most observers agreed that the Irish central midfield of Gibson and Glenn Whelan didn't exactly light up Croke Park on the night and Gibson was roundly criticised for his display against the Cypriots.

But the United man, likely to win another cap against Poland on Wednesday, told the Herald that criticism doesn't affect him.

"I didn't read anything that was written or said about me after the Cyprus game," said Gibson, who came on as a second-half sub in United's win over Stoke.

"I don't care what is said about me. As long as I do the business for my manager and play well, I am happy.


"And I know that I did that against Cyprus. Mr Trapattoni came up to me after the game, said I did well and that I was very much part of his plans and that meant a lot to me, coming from such an experienced manager.

"And when I went into training the next day, Alex Ferguson took me aside, said he had seen bits and pieces from our match in Dublin, that I had done well and to keep it up. So, if those two experienced managers are happy with me, then that's good enough for me," added Gibson, who played 90 minutes for his club in their midweek Carling Cup win over QPR last Tuesday.

"Cyprus went well for me, in my opinion. Myself and Glenn Whelan were picked to do a job and we did that job. We played okay and we won the game.

"I heard that the two of us in midfield got a bit of stick but we did what the manager asked us to do and in football I don't think you can do any more.

"It was a big thing for me, to start a game at Croke Park. I know I am young and still learning the game, but I feel I will only improve from the experience of games like that.

"The manager only told me on the day of the game that I was starting for certain. There was stuff in the press and on the radio the day before that I might play. He didn't make a big fuss of playing me, he just named the team from one to 11 and I was in it.

"Even though it had been rumoured that I might play, I was still in a bit of shock. The idea of starting a World Cup game for my country at Croke Park, and such an important game, was a big thing for me.

"I know the manager took a risk in starting me against Cyprus as I am not as experienced as other players in the squad. He took a bit of stick from the press over that, but he doesn't care; the media don't faze him at all. He knows what he wants to do and he sticks with it."

Trapattoni has shown so far in his seven-month reign as Ireland coach that loyalty is a vital part of his make up. Do the business the way he wants and you will keep getting chances, as people like Whelan, Andy Keogh and Kevin Kilbane have found out.

And Gibson hopes that stays true for the next few games at least, starting on Wednesday against the Poles,

"It's a big game for people like myself and Glenn Whelan," says Gibson. "At the moment, I am not playing too many games for my club and Glenn's not a regular with Stoke right now, so we need to play and do well against Poland to stay in the Ireland team.

"It's not so long before the next qualifier, against the Georgians in February, and I think I need a good game, if I am selected against Poland, to stay in the team.

"There is a slot available in the Irish side as Steven Reid is out injured and will be out for a while. I had the chance in the last game against Cyprus and it's up to me to try and keep myself in the team," added Gibson.

One problem for Trapattoni is that so few of his central midfielders are getting regular game time with their clubs: Gibson, Whelan and Liam Miller have all struggled to get starts in the Premier League this season, while those who do play more regularly (Joey O'Brien, Andy Reid, Rory Delap and Lee Carsley) all failed to make the squad.

That's why it's important for Gibson, now in his fifth year at Old Trafford, to push on with his club career. And just as an injury to Steven Reid has opened up a slot in the Ireland team for Gibson, the same could happen at club level with injury ruling out United duo Owen Hargreaves and Paul Scholes.

"I would never wish bad luck on anyone and it's terrible for the club to see Hargreaves missing the whole season. I hope he gets back, but it does give me some chance," added Gibson, who showcased his talents with a rare 90 minutes in the 1-0 win over QPR.


"It was a tough enough game for us. We had to work hard to win it but I think we deserved it in the end.

"There's been a lot of talk about the new generation of Arsenal players, how good their youngsters have been in the Carling Cup when they've played, but I think the United team and our younger players did pretty well against QPR. It would be nice if we got some of the good press that Arsenal get for playing their youngsters.

"It was good for me to get the 90 minutes under my belt. I've had a couple of sub appearances for United before, but never a full game, so that was a big boost to my confidence. The fact that the manager started me and kept me on for the whole game meant a lot to me. For me, it was a step closer to the first team and me being involved on a more regular basis."

United have twice sent Gibson out on loan, both times for a whole season, to Wolves and also the Red Devils' continental feeder club Royal Antwerp. Gibson may take another loan move -- but if that happens it's likely to be with another Premier League club.

He said: "I will leave things as they are until Christmas and see what happens. I plan to have a chat with the manager over the next few weeks to see what his plans are.

"If I can get another appearance or two under my belt between now and the New Year, it will strengthen my case to stay and try to get into the team, but it's his call.

"I know that I need to be playing games. If the manager wants to keep me here for the whole season and sees me as part of his plans, then of course I will stay, but if he thinks that I need a bit more time on loan, then I will go on loan."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Coyle calls for McCann call-up

Burnley boss Owen Coyle has called on Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni to end Chris McCann's international exile.

McCann has not figured for Ireland since walking out of the U-21 squad in November 2007 when he was named on the bench for a European Championship qualifier.

The former Home Farm player has produced some storming displays in Burnley's midfield this season, including a goal-scoring performance at Reading last Saturday.

Former Ireland international striker Coyle believes the 21-year-old is good enough to be considered for the senior set-up.

"The Republic of Ireland must have an unbelievable abundance of quality for Chris not to be involved at any level," said Coyle.

"I think he is getting better and he is showing great maturity. I believe he's capable of playing in the Premier League and being involved with the Republic of Ireland.

"I know he is desperate to represent his country."

McCann has already played over 100 games for Burnley and has been a driving force in their climb up the Championship table.

And despite being overlooked for Ireland's 'B' friendly against Nottingham Forest on Thursday, the Dubliner has not given up hope of forcing his way back into international contention.

McCann said: "A 'B' squad has been announced and I'm not in it but I won't get too down about it. As long as I am playing well hopefully something will happen sooner rather than later.''

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Doyle extends Reading contract

Reading and Ireland striker Kevin Doyle has signed a new deal which will keep him at the club until the summer of 2011.

The 25-year-old told the club website: "We wanted to act now and then concentrate fully on the season.

"The club and I didn't want any uncertainty in January. We wanted to clear things up now and then just try to get back into the Premiership."

Doyle signed for the Royals from Cork City in 2005. He has scored 11 league goals in 15 games this season.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Whelan may consider move to save international career

Stoke manager Tony Pulis will not loan out any more of his players before the transfer window opens in January.

Pulis knows there is plenty of interest in several of his personnel and, with defender Lewis Buxton loaned to Sheffield Wednesday last week, there has been speculation over the future of midfielder Glenn Whelan in particular.

Whelan has not featured in the Barclays Premier League since Stoke's opening-day defeat at Bolton but Pulis said: "Glenn is going nowhere and neither is anyone else who is in our first-team squad."

He added: "Glenn has been to see me and I've told him his chance will come around again. It will then be up to him to take that chance.

"We are going to need all the players at some stage and some of them will have to be patient.

"Having a big squad and players who are unhappy at not playing is a new experience for me, but one that I was always going to come up against.

"I can see both sides of the coin because I was a player myself many moons ago. No-one was more unhappy than me if I was ever left out."

When questioned over a possible move away from Stoke City Whelan said:

“If I don’t get back in the Stoke team,” he says, “I don’t think I will have a chance in the international team because the Ireland manager will be looking for match-fit players.

“There’s a big gap now and if I don’t play a lot of games between now and the next international in February, then that will affect me.”

Not that he is pitching for a move in the January transfer window, he insists, merely setting himself a personal target to regain that coveted club spot sooner rather than later.

“Ask any player and they will tell you they want to play every game they possibly can,” said Whelan. “It hasn’t happened for me, but I’ve been working hard in training and hopefully I can impress the manager. At the end of the day he can only pick 11 now that we have a bigger and better squad.

“I think I’m more than capable of getting back into the team and I just have to make sure that when February comes around I’m back playing here. It’s going to be tough, but I think I’m capable.”

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Cillian Sheridan being groomed for major role

Cillian Sheridan lacks nothing in terms of the physical attributes that could give him a fighting chance of carving out a fine Celtic career.

Experience is the only thing missing from his locker, although plenty would have been banked from a cameo performance against Manchester United this week in the Champions League.

Clearly, the young Irishman is being groomed for a major role by Gordon Strachan, given the public votes of confidence he has received.

As is the way with most young players with something that bit special, Sheridan is fuelled by a major desire to make it as a top-level striker.

He trusts his manager in the way he is handling his development, which Strachan says is about being careful not to push him too soon as there have been some problems with growing pains as he fills out his tall frame.

But there is always that straining on the leash, a trait many undaunted youngsters on the periphery of first-team life at the Old Firm have, and Sheridan wants to make his mark.

The current striking crisis that has hit Strachan, just as Celtic enter a hectic run of games in three competitions, may well see the door being opened for the 19-year-old, who has impressed everyone at the club with his attitude to work, and his understanding of what he has to put in to ensure his natural talent can be fulfilled.

Reflecting on events, he smiled: "I am really enjoying the step-up, and getting on up at Inverness last weekend and then again at Old Trafford was a fantastic experience for me.

"I'm still a young player and I have a lot to learn, but to be gaining that kind of experience against teams like Manchester United is great.

"Being involved in the first- team picture with so many top players here is really helping my game."

He added: "The training, the experience of being in the squads, the advice from the coaches and manager, it's all crucial and I try to learn as much as I can every day, and also when we are away like during this week down in Manchester.

"Like everyone, you want to play. I want to play for Celtic and score goals for the club, but there are top-class strikers here and I just need to wait for my chance.

"When that comes is down to the manager. It's unfortunate for Georgios Samaras, Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink and Chris Killen, who have injuries right now.

"But I just need to keep myself prepared and be ready every time the manager needs me. That's what I'll be doing."

Sheridan, who appears to have that invaluable asset of genuine pace even though he's over six foot, embraces the concept that the modern striker has to have plenty in their armoury to cut it.

At Old Trafford he got a close glimpse of the very best; the touch, presence and grace of Dimitar Berbatov, and the sheer raw power, speed and class of Wayne Rooney.

These men are operating at the very top of the business, but Sheridan admits that working hard to improve himself is something he has to do.

In the build-up to the United match Strachan, quite rightly, spoke of how it would be unfair to throw the youngster in from the start, given he had only played in a handful of first-team matches so far.

He also highlighted how a step up to first team training levels for the first time, and the pressures that come with that physically, are the things Celtic are keeping an eye on.

"You see the top guys like Rooney and Berbatov the other night and they have everything in their game," Sheridan added.

"I watch a lot of strikers to try and learn things and, of course, try to pick up things from training and playing alongside Sami and big Jan here.

"I know that a lot of the game now is based on pace and power, so building myself up is something I will keep working on to improve."

Sheridan certainly carried no inhibitions into the Theatre of Dreams when he was pitched on for the final 15 minutes of Celtic's 3-0 defeat that leaves them heading towards a Uefa Cup battle with Aalborg unless they can glean a major points haul from the three group games they have left.

A couple of darting runs, and a real directness in his play certainly suggest that Strachan is right to have faith in the player.

It was a personal high for Sheridan to enter that kind of company, even if the result left him as disappointed as everyone else in the Celtic camp.

Reflecting on his Old Trafford experience, he smiled: "The manager just said to me try and score a goal'. That's my job as a striker, and I went on and tried to get forward when I could.

"There were a couple of things I felt I could have done better with, and a header I maybe should have got on target, but it was a good experience even if the result was a blow.

"We knew it would be tough against them, but it's the ultimate dream for young guys like me to play in these kind of matches.

"I would like to be involved in the return game, but we'll see what happens. We need to try and win the match when they come to Glasgow. But we have important games in the SPL and in the cup before that, so we'll be focusing on them."

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Gibson unfazed by Dumphy criticism

Derry's Manchester United midfielder, Darron Gibson, has hit back at criticism directed at his performance during his full international debut for Ireland against Cyprus in Wednesday night's World Cup qualifier at Croke Park.

The 20 years-old from Barr’s Lane was a shock inclusion in Giovanni Trapattoni’s starting line-up having impressed the Italian with his performance in Ireland’s exhibition match against Nottingham Forest last Thursday evening, the new Irish boss electing to select him ahead of the Sunderland pairing, Andy Reid and Liam Millar, for the crucial clash with the Cypriots.

Gibson delivered a solid performance alongside fellow novice, Glenn Whelan of Stoke City, in central midfield but the pair came in for a barrage of fierce criticism following the game, most notably from RTE panellist, Eamon Dunphy, who questioned the Derry man’s inclusion and credibility, describing Gibson as a ‘ninth-choice’ Manchester United midfielder!

Gibson, however, remained unfazed by those comments and remains of the view that he had proved himself capable of playing at the highest level.

“I don’t care what anyone is saying about me, to be honest,” said Darron last night.

“I don’t think I’ve ever been fitter than what I am now and the main thing is that we won the game. The manager told both Glenn Whelan and myself to sit deep and help with defending. It was a typically Italian way of playing of the game,” he claimed.

“It was a different role than what I’m used to playing at Manchester United, I suppose I’d rather be bombing forward and be more attacking, but it was a big confidence-booster to play at this level and, hopefully, I can kick on from here and make an impression in the squad.”

It was the former Tristar player’s third Irish cap, having made two substitute appearances under Trapattoni's predecessor, Steve Staunton, against Denmark and Slovakia, but this was, by some considerable distance, the biggest game of his career to date.

Delighted to get his chance ahead of regular English Premiership stars, Reid and Millar, Gibson revealed his intention to secure his place in the squad for next month’s friendly against Poland.

“I was delighted to be brought in for such a big game. I wouldn’t want to be brought in any other way. I think I’ve now shown I can play and handle the pressure at International level.

“It wasn’t the best of games, but I thought I passed the ball well enough and the main thing was that we won the game. I think I played well and, hopefully, I can keep my place in the side. We have a friendly game next month against Poland and I would hope to be playing,” continued Darron.

“It was my first time playing at Croke Park. The pitch was excellent and the atmosphere was great. I must admit that I was a bit nervous before the match but once it got started I was fine. The coaches were telling me all week to speak more and shout a bit more on the pitch and I’m hoarse today as a result!”

But did his call-up to the starting line-up come as a surprise?

“I wasn’t expecting to be called into the squad, so I was delighted when I found out,” he revealed. “Liam Brady seems to like me.

He talked to Trapattoni about me and they sat down to watch some videos before Trapattoni watched me for the first time against Nottingham Forest and made his decision based on that performance.

“The manager told me that I would be in the squad, but I never thought I’d be starting. He didn’t actually tell me I was starting and it wasn’t until we were going through tactics and the formation that I realised I was in the starting line-up.

“It was a brilliant experience and it’s been a real rollercoster few days.”

Gibson is also hopeful of making an impression in the Manchester United squad this year and is anxious to build on his one first team appearance this season.

“I’m really hoping to get my chance and make an impact this season. There’s a lot of competition for places at Old Trafford but there’s been a few injuries and a few players away this weekend, so maybe I’ll get a chance against West Brom this Saturday,” he concluded.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Trapattoni satisfied with win over Cyprus

It was mission accomplished for Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni when he gave his assessment of the 1-0 win over Cyprus at Croke Park on Wednesday in the 2010 World Cup qualifier.

“This is a great victory,” said the Italian. ”I said to my players on Tuesday that, tomorrow we look to play well, but the result is most important. The performance comes and goes but the results stays.

“We got a great start with the goal but we stopped playing a bit. The last time we played Cyprus here we drew 1-1 and Ireland lost 5-2 in Cyprus as well. In future, we can play with more confidence.

"I thought Cyprus pushed and pushed. Cyprus played well. All their players played well with confidence. Our defenders were very strong. We didn't have any real difficulties. I like Cyprus though. They have a lot of good players.

“But we got this very important win and I want to congratulate the players because they played the final minutes with so much heart.”

He added: "Damien Duff is one of the stronger players in the team. I thought (Aiden) McGeady had great qualities too. Their specialty is running down the wings but I thought they suffered a bit with two in the centre of midfield.

“In this team we haven't had time to look and check out another scheme like three in midfield or another player in attack. In November, in the friendly (against Poland), we maybe look at the three in midfield.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Darron Gibson handed midfield role for Cyprus clash

Ireland manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, has announced his team to face Cyprus in the FIFA World Cup, group 8 qualifier, tomorrow, Wednesday October 15.

Manchester United midfielder, Darron Gibson, is set to make his third senior international appearance, six days after starring for the Republic of Ireland XI in a 2-0 victory over Nottingham Forest.

Also returning to the starting line-up is Paul McShane in defence while Damien Duff returns from injury to feature in his first game of the 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign.

This will be Gibson’s first start at International level. He made his full debut in August 2007 as a half-time substitute against Denmark in a friendly before featuring again as a substitute a few week later in the EURO 2008 qualifier against Slovakia.

The 20-year old particularly caught the eye of Trapattoni in last week’s challenge match against Forest when he played for the first 55 minutes.

The manager believes the Manchester United man has the ability to be a key asset within Ireland’s central midfield on Wednesday night when he partners Glenn Whelan in the middle.

"At the moment, we are missing Steven Reid (through injury) and his physical aspect," said Trapattoni.

"Gibson is confident on the ball. He plays the easy ball and he looks before the ball comes and, for me, that is a good quality.

"The first reason (for him playing) is his height and the second is that he plays with confidence.

"He doesn't play very often, but he plays for Manchester United. Manchester United are a very important team. I want to try him out because he could be somebody who works very well in midfield also in the future."

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Dunne determined to avoid another Cyprus disaster

"After Cyprus, that campaign was never about the football."

Two years after the worst night in recent Irish soccer memory, Richard Dunne believes Ireland have a manager to cope with any adversity

It was the night when the foundations of the Staunton regime crumbled before the cement had even begun to set. Cyprus, bloody Cyprus.

Richard Dunne answered hundreds of questions on the issue of the small Mediterranean nation this week, struggling to find new perspectives on the 90 minutes that Irish football wishes to forget.

You should know what happened, so expanding on the basic details is unnecessary. The 5-2 defeat in Nicosia on that miserable night in October two years ago has loomed like a shadow over this generation of Irish players. Never more than a question away.


After that humiliation, the Euro 2008 campaign was doomed to failure. Dunne concedes that it set off a chain of misery which ruined his enjoyment of international football, and he wasn't alone in that sentiment.

He has sympathy for Steve Staunton, who was brought in believing he would implement a four-year plan, but was goosed after two competitive games. The final blow to his tenure was struck when Cyprus swaggered into Croke Park 12 months later and deserved to win only for Steve Finnan's injury-time equaliser. By then, the jury had already voted unanimously for change.

It brought to an end a tumultuous period in our football history, the kind of year which the Manchester City defender never wants to experience again. He does not wish to criticise Staunton, but reckons that Giovanni Trapattoni's method of leadership is capable of keeping the blues away and handling adversity in a more constructive fashion.

The press fall-out from Cyprus Part I was vicious. And the response from management and players was to adopt a siege mentality. The problem, according to Dunne, is that the issue escalated beyond that and began to dominate everything. All sides were implicated, and the powers-that-be in the Irish camp were guilty of getting caught up in the recriminations and paranoia emanating from the drawn-out post-mortem.

Ill feeling and never-ending tension became the story. Football? It was the reason they were all there, but not the focus. With sour faces all around, the environment was an unsettling one.

"The confidence was damaged," reflects Dunne, speaking in his latest promotion of EA Sports' FIFA 09 computer game. "There was just a whole negative thing every time we came over.

"Right, there was football on one side, but there were always different stories everywhere about different things, that somebody's not happy with somebody and somebody doesn't like him. They were all side stories, but they ended up becoming the talk of the training ground.

"It wasn't a case of just concentrate on the match because there always seemed to be something going on somewhere.

"This time, you come over and the manager has no interest in what anyone writes about him. There's no worry around the place.

"There's nobody saying 'oh, a reporter said this about you.' The manager doesn't care, and the players have no reason to care. You know what I mean?

"It's just play football, do our interviews, do everything and whatever is written then it doesn't matter. The players have no need to worry because the manager's not thinking 'we have to win this game because of what the press wrote'.

"He's told us that. He says to us that if we get a five-out-of-10 or a 10-out-of-10 in the papers it doesn't matter because in two weeks' time people will look at the result and they won't care.

"So if you win one-nil and you have a shit game then who gives a f**k, we've won the game so nobody is interested in the paper afterwards. Everyone has bad games, but we're all just trying to win so that's it. There's no point worrying about the other stuff."

That relaxed nature comes from the top down and, in that respect, Dunne has warmed to Trapattoni. With his experience, no job is too big for him although the counterpoint to the good vibes is that he's enjoyed a relatively easy ride so far.

A defeat will test his disposition, but Dunne has noted the manner in which he is nonplussed by outside influences.

"There's him, his coaching staff and the team and you can tell that nothing else really matters to him," explains the centre-half. "If people want to slag him off or anything then so be it, but he'll do the job his way. He doesn't have time for anybody who won't go along with him.

"He walks around the place and looks confident, he walks around with a strut and I think it rubs off on the players. We like him because everyone trusts him and realises that he knows what he's on about."

As Ireland prepare to take on Cyprus for the fourth successive October, the presence of a manager in the dugout with no demons related to the opposition can only be a good thing, according to the Tallaght man.

The previous games have claimed casualties in addition to Staunton, Devlin, McDonald et al. Paddy Kenny, Andy O'Brien and Clinton Morrison effectively ceased to become Irish internationals after the infamous drubbing.

They were expendable, but the marquee names struggled that night. It's worth remembering that the other eight members of the starting XI were Finnan, O'Shea, Dunne, Kilbane, Ireland, McGeady, Duff and Keane. Young in places, but still a respectable delegation.

Like the rest of the back four, Dunne endured a torrid night and eventually received a red card but he is not scarred by it and believes it would be counterproductive for anyone to speak in such terms with next Wednesday on the horizon.

"It's two years ago and we're still being asked about that game," he says. "It's not any clearer now, there are no new answers or revelations or anything like that. We got hammered, that's still what happened so we can't change it.

"There's no point in sitting back and thinking, 'awh, that was a really bad night, I hope that doesn't happen' and worrying. We have just got to hope that it's a new game, a new manager, and a new campaign. I don't think we should be fearful of it.

"Because when the fixture comes around and everyone starts saying what a bad day that was -- and last year as well -- then negative thoughts are going through everyone's head. Whereas for them it's all positive.

"They come into the game knowing they hammered us before and got a good result the last time. They'll be confident.

"Their manager is already saying they expect to win it so we've just got to forget about what's gone on in the past and make sure we're as confident as them because I believe our squad is a lot better than theirs and our team should be capable of beating them."

It is the confident talk which supporters want to hear but there is a certain irony about the prevailing mood ahead of the next instalment of the Cypriot saga.


The thrashing in Nicosia reverberated so much because the general feeling was that they were opposition that should be brushed aside.

Staunton did have a point. Cyprus were an improving side and continue to bear out that theory, yet they're still nowhere near as accomplished as Ireland allowed them to look in the aborted attempt at making it to Austria and Switzerland.

Putting that right next Wednesday is the only way the longest post-mortem in history can finally be brought to a close.

Looking forward rather than backwards is the key.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Ireland squad v Cyprus

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has called up five more players for Wednesday's World Cup qualifier against Cyprus at Croke Park.

Caleb Folan, Kevin Foley, Anthony Stokes, Keith Andrews and Darron Gibson have all been elevated to the squad.

Steve Finnan, Steven Reid and Stephen Kelly have been ruled out by injuries.

Newcastle winger Damien Duff returns to the squad after missing the win over Georgia and the draw in Montenegro which ensured a promising start.

Goalkeeper Joe Murphy also earned a recall to the squad.

Finnan was ruled out after sustaining a calf strain in his debut for Spanish side Espanyol a couple of weeks ago while Kelly is unavailable because of a thigh injury.

Reid has missed Blackburn's last three games because of a knee injury and his absence is a major blow for Trapattoni.

The Ireland boss has included Liam Miller in the squad even though that Sunderland midfielder has been troubled recently by a groin strain.

Despite his midfield problems which include the self-imposed absence of Stephen Ireland, Trapattoni elected not to recall Lee Carsley and the Birmingham player's international days could now be over.

Paul McShane has been playing mainly at full-back since his loan move to Hull and he looks in line to replace Finnan.

Ireland squad

Goalkeepers: S Given (Newcastle Utd), D Kiely (West Brom), J Murphy (Scunthorpe Utd)

Defenders: A Bruce (Ipswich Town), D Delaney (QPR), R Dunne (Manchester City), K Kilbane (Wigan Athletic), J O'Brien (Bolton), J O'Shea (Manchester Utd), P McShane (Sunderland - on loan at Hull City), K Foley (Wolves)

Midfielders: S Hunt (Reading), A McGeady (Celtic), D Duff (Newcastle Utd), L Miller (Sunderland), A Reid (Sunderland), G Whelan (Stoke City), K Andrews (Blackburn Rovers), D Gibson (Manchester Utd)

Forwards: K Doyle (Reading), R Keane (Liverpool), A Keogh (Wolves), S Long (Reading), D Murphy (Sunderland), C Folan (Hull), A Stokes (Sunderland).