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.