Friday, January 30, 2009

Folan withdraws from Ireland squad

Hull City & Ireland striker Caleb Folan has withdrawn from the Ireland squad for next month's World Cup qualifier against Georgia.

The 26-year-old has only recently returned to action following knee surgery and has informed manager Geovanni Trapattoni that he does not yet feel ready to play at Croke Park on February 11.

Folan had a minor operation in early December and has featured only twice since as a substitute in FA Cup ties against Newcastle and Millwall this month. Folan said: "I won't be going over there, it's still a bit too soon."

He added: "I have spoken to the Irish manager about my situation at the minute and I am trying to work on my fitness, so it might not be the right time for me to go over there this time around.

"I've spoken to Trapattoni and he believes I'll still be very much in his plans.

"I'm just hoping I can get my fitness right and be ready for the coming Ireland games."

Willo Flood makes Celtic move

Willo Flood last night spoke of his delight at Celtic finally moving to seal his capture after the Parkhead club stepped up their push to add fresh talent before the transfer deadline.

The 23-year-old midfielder had been critical of the slow progress of his proposed switch after missing the decisive penalty for Dundee United in Wednesday night’s epic shoot-out that sent Celtic into the Co-operative Insurance Cup Final.

Yesterday afternoon, however, he travelled to Glasgow for a three-hour medical at Ross Hall hospital and is set to agree terms worth around £8,500-per-week.

Celtic are believed to have effectively landed him for free, with Cardiff City happy to clear the remaining six months of his wages from their books. Flood had been on loan at United from Cardiff for the past 18 months and discussions were continuing last night to finalise his release from that agreement — and decide his availability for weekend fixtures.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Hunt blasts Reading for blocking his return to the Premier League

Stephen Hunt has accused Reading of lying about the chances of his return to the Premier League.

The Ireland international has a clause in his contract that says he can leave the club for £5million.

Wigan and Spurs are both keen and know Hunt is desperate to taste top-flight football again.

Reading boss Steve Coppell has claimed no bids have been received by anyone but Hunt reckoned this was a smokescreen.

He said: 'I know they have been contacted by clubs. Maybe some people need to go to church on a Sunday for confession.

'A lot of things have been said and a lot of things have been denied. It's quite embarrassing really but you have to get on with it.

'I know exactly what's happening and it amuses me when I see the comments that come out. But I suppose they've got a job to do, though it really is shocking. The noise is frightening but at the end of the day what can you do?'

Reading are on course for a top-flight return themselves and Hunt did not rule out staying.

He said: 'Staying here and winning promotion with Reading is still a possibility, of course it is. Whether clubs can come to an agreement, only time will tell.

'The manager expects me to stay and I'm happy here. But at the same time Premier League football is hard to turn down.'

Monday, January 26, 2009

Crunch time for Given

It's crunch time for Shay Given as Manchester City are poised to continue their relentless pursuit of Newcastle United’s unhappy goalkeeper.

The Ireland international and his agent was due to have a meeting with Newcastle manager Joe Kinnear and managing director Derek Llamabias today when it is thought Given will urge the club to allow him to leave before the close of the transfer window.

Although the Irish goalkeeper released a statement last month to publicly air his grievances at St James’s Park, Kinnear has stubbornly refused to consider his sale because of his importance to their mission to avoid relegation.

That stance had not changed last night, but the 32-year-old is set to force the issue ahead of Newcastle’s trip to the City of Manchester Stadium on Wednesday night and an official transfer request is not out of the question.

The Donegal man is still immensely frustrated on Tyneside and the club’s transfer activity during the January window has done nothing to persuade him the team’s fortunes are going to markedly improve in the short term.

The Magpies have turned down two bids for Given since the start of the year, but City will return with a third in the next few days and expect to break the resistance of the United hierarchy with an improved bid. That could be a fee of around £9m, or a cash plus players package, with Newcastle already expressing an interest in City’s England Under-21 internationals Michael Johnson and Nedum Onuoha. Kinnear is still reluctant to part with Given, but fears the decision will be effectively taken out of his hands, should the player officially request to leave St James’s Park today.

The departure of Given will be acutely felt by the Newcastle United fans who, since Alan Shearer’s retirement, have come to regard Given as the team’s figurehead. But, after 11 years of loyal service, there is also little resentment towards the goalkeeper for wanting to get out of a club which has failed to match his ambition for so long.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Doyle hoping that Hunt stays at Reading

Kevin Doyle has pleaded with Reading not to sell his Ireland team-mate Stephen Hunt to Wigan Athletic.

Hunt took a step closer to the Premier League yesterday when Wigan tabled a £5million bid for the Ireland international, and as Reading are not in action this weekend due to their FA Cup exit, a deal could be done in the next 48 hours if Wigan boss Steve Bruce can prove he's serious about signing the Waterford man.

But Hunt's team-mate with club and country has begged the Royals not to sell Hunt and to keep him on board for their promotion push, despite the arrival at Reading earlier this week of a possible replacement in fellow Irishman Jay Tabb.

"Obviously I hope that us signing Jay Tabb doesn't mean Stephen Hunt going. We need everyone, especially him as he has been one of our best players for a while," said Doyle.

But Reading's determination to hold onto winger Hunt will be tested by the cash reserves available to Wigan boss Steve Bruce, who has £15million to spend due to the sale of Wilson Palacios to Spurs earlier this week.

Wigan had been keen on Fulham's Jimmy Bullard but he is now set to join Premier League rivals Hull City in a £6m deal, so Bruce will switch his attention to Ireland man Hunt.

The Waterford native almost joined Everton in a £4m deal last summer but that fell through when the clubs failed to agree on the payment process, with Everton offering the money in installments but Reading demanded the cash up front.

Hunt now has a clause in his contract which allows him leave the Madejski Stadium if another club makes a bid in excess of £5m.

Meanwhile West Ham are poised to make a bid for Sligo Rovers' Ireland U21 star Seamus Coleman, after Everton failed to make a substantial offer. Everton reportedly made a bid of just €100,000 for Coleman but Sligo are holding out for more and that could see West Ham nab the Donegal native. Sligo chairman Michael Toolan today confirmed that Rovers had held talks with three English Premier League teams and two SPL clubs.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Darren O'Dea for Burnley

Celtic and Ireland defender Darren O'Dea is on the verge of a loan switch to Burnley after turning down the opportunity of a spell with Championship leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers.

Owen Coyle has been trying to strengthen his back four since the opening of the transfer window and is now close to securing a deal for O'Dea.

The Ireland International has been included in Gordan Strachan's Celtic side of late as a result to injuries to keen players, but the 21-year-old is keen to move away from Celtic Park with Burnley his preferred destination.

Kevin Moran, the player's agent confirmed that O'Dea was close to a deal that would see the youngster come to Turf Moor on loan until the end of the season.

"Gordon has declared his willingness to let Darren move out on loan so that he can play more," said Moran.

"It looks like Burnley, and the only question is really over the timing of when he will head south. He's looking forward to going there.

"Gordon Strachan says that it's important for Darren to get games in and he's more than happy to go to Burnley.

"It's very important to Darren to get games. If he can get those games at Burnley, which is a good footballing club, then all the better."

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gibson looking forward to Wembley appearance

Darron Gibson can't wait for his first major cup final with Manchester United after helping United to a Carling Cup semi-final win over Derby last night.

The Ireland international has featured in every United game on their march towards Wembley and with Sir Alex Ferguson pledging to stick with his youngsters for the encounter with either Burnley, but most probably Tottenham, on March 1, Gibson seems assured of a starting spot.

Gibson is relishing the opportunity to play in a major cup final with Utd.

"I am buzzing," he said.

"I can't wait to go to Wembley. It will be my first big final so I am really looking forward to it."

Now 21, Gibson has enjoyed successful loan spells with Royal Antwerp and Wolves, while Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni is also a big fan and Gibson is likely to feature in Ireland's World Cup qualifying game against Georgia in February.

But at United, Gibson knows he must grasp every opportunity that comes his way if he is to emulate international team-mate John O'Shea to become an established member of Ferguson's squad.

And, as the likes of Michael Carrick and Paul Scholes were among the central midfielders on the bench for both legs of the semi-final win over Derby, Gibson is buoyed by Ferguson's decision to place his trust in him.

"It is unbelievable," he said.

"When you see the players on the bench like Paul Scholes and Michael Carrick it is a great feeling to know that the manager has enough faith in me to keep putting me in there."

Monday, January 19, 2009

Trapattoni names squad for Georgia qualifier

Shay Given - Newcastle United
Dean Kiely - West Brom
Keiren Westwood - Coventry City

Alex Bruce - Ipswich Town
Damien Delaney - QPR
John O'Shea - Manchester United
Kevin Foley - Wolves
Paul McShane - Sunderland
Richard Dunne - Manchester City
Stephen Kelly - Birmingham City
Steve Finnan - Espanyol
Kevin Kilbane Hull City

Aiden McGeady - Glasgow Celtic
Damien Duff - Newcastle United
Darron Gibson - Manchester United
Glenn Whelan - Stoke City
Keith Andrews - Blackburn Rovers
Liam Miller - QPR
Stephen Hunt - Reading
Andy Keogh - Wolves

Caleb Folan - Hull City
Kevin Doyle - Reading
Robbie Keane - Liverpool
Shane Long - Reading
Noel Hunt - Reading

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Kilbane eager to continue international career

Eleven years on from winning his first Ireland cap, a hunger for international football continues to inspire Kevin Kilbane.

Fearful of damaging his prospects by sitting in the Wigan shadows, January needed to bring a fresh challenge. With the promise of first-team football, a £500,000 move to Hull City has delivered Kilbane's wish. And while preserving City's Premier League status remains his more pressing concern, Kilbane hopes a two-and-a-half year deal can help bring personal glory on the international stage.

Just eight caps short of a century, the 31-year-old is second only to Steve Staunton in Ireland's all-time appearance list.

Given the magnitude of the looming milestone, Kilbane is understandably reluctant to tempt fate. But with fresh challenges bringing a skip to his step, the winger has boosted his chances.

"If you're not playing regular club football then you're putting your international place in jeopardy" said Kilbane.

"Getting to 100 is something that's been mentioned to me in the past and it's something that I've always tried to play down.

"Just to get one cap is really an amazing achievement.

"I'll see how it goes and hopefully I can play regular football now.

"If it comes then brilliant but if I don't get to 100, then I'll still be very happy with what I've achieved in international football."

Since making his Ireland bow against Iceland in 1997, Kilbane has enjoyed a rich history on the international stage.

Facing Montenegro last year, he featured in his 50th consecutive competitive game for his country - only England's Billy Wright and Theo Zagorakis of Greece have achieved longer unbroken runs.

Within the game, his unassuming nature and commitment has made him a popular figure in the trenches and a reliable stalwart for a string of managers.

Away from football, Kilbane shows a similar passion for his charity work.

In 2004, daughter Elsie was born with Down's Syndrome and her father works tirelessly as a patron for the condition's leading charity.

Nearing his 32nd birthday, Kilbane still has an enthusiasm reserved for the young.

Arriving as City's first January signing this week, he walked out on Wigan's impressive campaign for a side heading in the opposite direction.

But in signing for the Tigers, Kilbane could not be happier.

"If I'm being truthful, it was probably a couple of months ago I began thinking it was time for a change" he said.

"Even when things weren't going well for Wigan this season, I still wasn't getting in the side.

"I began to get a good feeling that you're not going to be selected over the coming months. You know when the writing is on the wall.

"As soon as I knew of Hull's interest, I wanted to come over and play."

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Trapattoni watching St Ledger & Andrews

Giovanni Trapattoni attended two matches in England on Saturday ahead of selecting his Ireland squad for the World Cup qualifier against Georgia.

The Italian joined Alan Kelly at the early kick-off game between Preston North End and Burnley.

Kelly has a long-standing relationship with Preston, but the impressive recent performances of Sean St Ledger could have been the reason for Trapattoni's presence.

He then made the short trip to watch Blackburn Rovers play Newcastle United, with the form of Keith Andrews and Damien Duff high on the agenda.

Meanwhile, Keith Fahey made his debut for Birmingham City in their 1-1 draw with Cardiff City at St. Andrews.

The former St Patrick's Athletic midfielder replaced fellow Irishman Lee Carsley with seven minutes to go.

There were goals aplenty for Irish players across the pond today, with Rory Delap's strike at Stamford Bridge for Stoke City the highlight.

Alan Lee, Owen Garvan, Wes Hoolahan,Anthony Pilkington and Darren Potter were on target for their Chamionship respective clubs.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Finnan medical halts Hull City move

Steve Finnan's £1million move to Hull City fell through last night after a medical revealed a deep-seated problem with his left thigh.

The Ireland international suffered the injury in November and has struggled to figure for Espanyol since. The former Liverpool right back, 32, has also seen moves to Tottenham and Blackburn on loan dashed because the Spanish club were demanding a fee.

It is another blow to Hull manager Phil Brown’s bid to recruit experienced players.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Stephen Hunt picks up Championship Player Of The Month award

Reading and Ireland midfielder Stephen Hunt has won the December Powerade Player of the Month Award in the Coca-Cola Championship.

Hunt's performances were at the heart of a fantastic month for Reading, which saw them pick up 17 points from their seven league fixtures.

The Irish international's impressive displays helped the Royals to five straight wins at the beginning of the month, including his eighth goal of the season in the victory against Norwich. Two solid draws against Cardiff and Southampton rounded off an unbeaten December to help Reading close the gap on league leaders Wolverhampton Wanderers as they head into 2009.

Chris Kamara, chairman of the Powerade Player of the Month Awards panel, said:

"Stephen Hunt has been in terrific form for Reading since the start of the season and December was no exception. His driving displays from the heart of midfield were instrumental in his side's fine performances, which saw the Royals remain unbeaten throughout December and notch five consecutive wins in a row that culminated in an outstanding away victory at promotion rivals Birmingham City."

Friday, January 9, 2009

McShane enjoying life at Hull

Paul McShane is on top of the world and, against all odds, looking down on relegation.

At the start of the season when McShane accepted a loan deal to Phil Brown's newly promoted Hull City side many expected that the Kilpedder man was going to be in for a long hard season. But the overachievers have surprised everyone and currently sit in eigth place in the Premier League.

And McShane couldn't be happier at the moment and admits that he's enjoying his football now more than at any other point in his career.

'Yeah I'm enjoying it. I've enjoyed every minute of it since I've come here it's been a good experience and the team's done well overall and we've had a bit of a dip in form lately but we have to get back on track and try to get as many points on the board as we can.

'Definitely. When you're playing you'll always enjoy your football more. It's all about playing at the end of the day. But yeah, I'm definitely enjoying it a lot more.'

The 23-year-old also says he doesn't mind too much where he plays on the pitch, as long as he plays.

'I don't know really, I don't know what my position is right now. I was a centre back like, but I've played all season at right back now and I suppose that's my position for the time being but anywhere across the back four really,' stated the modest youngster before adding tongue in cheek: 'And up front, fancy myself as a bit of a striker as well, ahh no I'm only joking.'

One thing a player will never joke about is his future though and the former Manchester United man confesses he hasn't put too much thought into whether or not he will be a Black Cat or a Tiger come next season.

'I'm not sure, I'm really not sure. I'm just taking it easy, I'm just enjoying myself at the moment I haven't really put much thought into where I'll be or whatever in the next few months. I'm just enjoying myself here at the moment and we'll see what happens.'

McShane's stay at Hull could come to a premature end however as new Sunderland boss Ricky Sbragia has admitted he's thinking about bringing the Republic of Ireland international back to the Stadium of Light, and he has until the end of the January transfer window to decide. One man who'll be hoping McShane remains at Hull until the end of the season however is manager Phil Brown, and he is a man who has left a mark on 'Macca'.

'He's done well, he's done very well. We've had an incredible start and he's done really well. He has impressed me since I've come here. He's very concentrated, he's specific to detail and he prepares brilliantly so I have to say he's done really well.'

Brown was of course the manager who decided to hold his half-time team talk on the pitch on St. Stephen's Day after Hull went into the break trailing 4-0 to Manchester City and McShane says he can understand his manager's reasoning.

'I felt like a little kid again! But the performance wasn't there in the first-half so everybody was disappointed and I think it was just to give us a kick up the backside really.'

If performances like that continue Hull could find themselves rapidly dropping down the table and the 6ft star is well aware of that prospect.

'You never know. We're lying eigth at the moment and we just want to keep looking ahead of us really. We just want to keep getting points on the board as I said before. We just have to re-group now and put things right.'

Putting his club situation aside for a minute, the former St. David's student spoke fondly of his achievements so far with Ireland having already won 13 caps but admits it won't be easy to force his way into Giovanni Trapattoni's plans when the Italian has a fully fit squad to choose from.

'Yeah it's pretty good. I just want to keep notching up as many caps as I can and there's some important games coming up for the Irish team and I want to be involved in them. I just want to keep playing.

'I don't know. There's a lot of competition at the back so I'll just keep plugging away, keep cracking away at it and hopefully he'll give me a chance. So all I can do is keep cracking away at it.'

Of course you can't discuss the Ireland team without discussing a certain Mr. Stephen Ireland and McShane, like most of us, wants to see the Man. City star back in a green jersey as soon as possible.

'Yeah of course. Of course I would. He's a great player and he's having a great season and we can only benefit from his talent so hopefully he does come back.'

One thing McShane must hate about playing for Ireland is the unjust amount of criticism he receives, mainly from Eamonn Dunphy, but it's like water off a duck's back to the 11 and a half stone defender.

'I just think that's football. You've always got a question mark over you no matter who you are. You'll always have your critics but it's part of the game. It's part of the modern game.

'You've just got to take it. You're not going to be everybody's flavour of the month. You're not going to keep everyone happy but that's just life in general isn't it?'

While he mightn't have found the net in those 13 appearances for Ireland, he has managed to score for Hull this season, coming against Premier League leaders at Liverpool and as expected, he was pretty happy with it.

'It was great. It was brilliant. It was my first goal in the Premier League and it was a special moment. I had got concussion a little bit before it - well not concussion just slight concussion - and then my eyesight sort of went when I got the knock on my head so I had to get taken off so it was a high and a low for me. '

Although that goal caused the Anfield men to drop two points, McShane says he would like to see them lift the Premier League come May as it's been a long wait for the Merseyside club.

One man who could be a big help to Liverpool's title charge is Fernando Torres, and McShane admits the Spaniard is the toughest opponent he's ever faced.

'Fernando Torres. He was probably the toughest. He's an overall great player. He's very clever and he's got great skill as well and he's also very quick.'

Whether at Sunderland or Hull City, the chirpy youngster is going to come up against many more players of top quality, and this will surely only make him even stronger.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gibson 'buzzing' after FA cup goal

Derry's Manchester United and Ireland midfielder, Darron Gibson, scored his first competitive goal for the Premiership champions as they strolled to victory over Championship outfit, Southampton, in the FA Cup third round at St. Mary's on Sunday evening.

The 20 years-old Hazelbank lad, who entered the game as a second half substitute, justified his selection in the star studded panel with an 81st minute goal as United cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win, setting up a high profile fourth round clash with Spurs at Old Trafford.

And having finally got off the mark with his first senior strike for the club, Gibson revealed he is determined to make the most of his opportunity in the first team and, hopefully, find the net once again tomorrow night as United take on Derby County in the Carling Cup semi-final at Pride Park.

"I played in the FA Cup last year when I was out on loan with Wolves, but this was my first time playing in the competition with Manchester United and it was totally different. It was the biggest game of my career to date," declared Darren.

"I really enjoyed the experience, especially getting on the scoresheet and, If I'm to be totally honest, I could have scored a few more. I missed a few chances before I did find the net so it was a relief to finally get a goal. Wayne Rooney did really well to find me for our third goal.

"I must admit I'm buzzing at the minute," he enthused. "I've been working extremely hard in training and have been trying to improve on my finishing. I'm trying to get into the box a lot more often.

"Hopefully, if I start on Wednesday night against Derby I'll get an opportunity to score another goal. The manager seems to be keeping his faith in me and I intend to do everything I can to stay in his plans. He's told me that I'll definitely be involved in the game against Derby so I hope I can get on the scoresheet again and continue to make an impression.

"I'm getting a lot more chances this season and the longer we stay in the FA Cup - and if we can reach the Carling Cup Final - then the more chances of first team action I'm going to get. And as the season goes on I might even get more opportunities in the Premiership which is what I'm aiming towards," claimed the Derry man.

Having now rubbed shoulders with players of the quality of Dimitar Berbatov, Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney, Gibson believes he is continuing to develop as a player in the top flight of English football and is relishing the challenge.

"Playing with the likes of Rooney and Berbatov only makes you a better player," he maintains. "It's the first time I've played with Berbatov - he's different class.

He's a great player and he can find you with a pass from anywhere. It's definitely a lot easier playing alongside world class players.

"When I came on I started on the right side, I'm not sure why the manager wanted me to play there, but I'm just glad to be getting a chance to play and I'll play anywhere he wants me to. I would much prefer playing in the middle of the park but I'm certainly not going to complain if the manager chooses to play me, I'm just happy being involved."

Sir Alex Ferguson was pleased to see his side back amongst the goals again and was delighted to see Gibson net his first goal for the club.

"It's our best scoreline for quite a while," said the United boss.
"We've been missing too many chances lately, but at least we took a better percentage of them against Southampton.

"It was good to see Darron Gibson get off the mark. There's been a good spread of goals throughout the squad this season - that's 14 different players who have scored this season which is healthy,"
noted the Scot.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Blues boss hopes Kelly can now bounce back from injury

Birmingham boss Alex McLeish is hoping that fit again Stephen Kelly will return eager to bounce back from his early season misery.

The Ireland international is back in contention after three months out with a thigh muscle injury.

Prior to picking up his injury, the right-back was forced to play second fiddle to Stuart Parnaby at the start of the season.

Ironically Kelly was Blues’ only ever present outfield player last season yet he has only made one start and three substitute appearances during the current Championship campaign.

Now, with Nicky Hunt having been recalled by Bolton Wanderers, Kelly, for whom Blues rejected a £2.7 million bid from Fulham in the summer, will attempt to outmuscle Parnaby from the right-back berth.

And McLeish now wants to see the hungry Dubliner looking to make amends for his lack of action so far this season.

“Stephen Kelly hopefully comes back with all guns blazing,” said McLeish.

“He will be disappointed at not starting earlier in the season and I think it set him back a wee bit mentally, then, of cours,e he got an injury.

‘‘So I will be looking for Kel to come back and try to give Parnaby huge competition for the spot.

“I think Stephen will be anxious to get his head down and get back into the team, he’s been out for such a while I’m sure that will be his first mission.

“Stephen’s return to fitness has been absolute perfect timing"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Italy confirm Bari

The Italian Football Association has confirmed that the San Nicola stadium in Bari will host the forthcoming World Cup qualifier, Italy v Ireland on April 1, 2009.

Italy, who visit Montenegro four days before the match, lead Group Eight with 10 points from four games.

Ireland are three points behind in second spot after two wins and a draw under former Azzurri manager Trapattoni.

Ireland have home matches against Georgia and Bulgaria on February 11 and March 28 respectively before visiting the world champions in the southern Italian city.