Posts Tagged ‘Trapattoni|Premier League|soccer’

Even though the Republic of Ireland won't be involved in this summer's World Cup, they will still be keeping busy with a training camp in Dublin and two friendly matches in June.

Giovanni Trapattoni will announce his squad for the training camp on Monday, which presents him with the ideal opportunity to call up fringe players and youngsters that he wants to see more of.

The Irish boss gave a hint at some of the players that are in his thoughts with the Brazil friendly back in March as Brian Murphy, Marc Wilson, Greg Cunningham and Jame McCarthy were all included.

That quartet should be drafted in again along with the likes of Seamus Coleman (Everton), Keith Treacy (Preston North End) and David Meyler (Sunderland), who have all impressed at club level this season.

There are obviously a lot more names that will be added to the list, although it is tough to know whether Trapattoni will bring in players like Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Keith Fahey (Birmingham City) and Jonathan Walters (Ipswich Town) or shape the rest of his squad around players who have been previously called up.

Meyler's impact can't be ignored

Not so long ago Sunderland were the go-to club to see how Irish players were faring over in England. While they still have a few exiles on their books, it is only Andy Reid (currently injured) and Meyler who have been part of Steve Bruce's first-team on a regular basis this season.

It says a lot about Meyler that he is so highly thought of at the Stadium of Light that they have recently rewarded him with a new five-year deal and given him more valuable game-time (seven Premier League starts so far).

The Cork-born midfielder is an aggressive player who breaks up play well, strides from box to box hounding opponents and getting involved in attacks and doesn't shy away from helping his team-mates by covering back and making himself useful at set-pieces.

Okay his short passing needs to be crisper and his concentration levels have dropped off at key times, but he is still only 20-years-old and will improve - especially if Trapattoni takes an interest in him.

Midfield options starting to grow

Throughout the qualifying campaign for the 2010 World Cup, Ireland had a pretty settled central midfield with Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews striking up a good partnership. Steven Reid started the campaign alongside Whelan, but injury restricted him from reclaiming his place.

During the qualifying, it was generally perceived that Trapattoni had few options in the middle if either Whelan or Andrews were unavailable. There was Liam Miller (Hibernian) and Darron Gibson (Manchester United), but neither have really impressed since the Italian took charge of the team.

Miller is playing regularly in the SPL and Gibson has started to develop more as a player, but their places in the squad could be snapped up by Meyler and Wilson, if they impress during the training camp in Malahide (assuming they get called up).

Then there is also McCarthy and Fahey who can do a lot more than just deconstruct as they are excellent playmakers, but they tend to be pushed out into wide positions. Either way, Trapattoni had plenty of options to explore and the Irish midfield should be a lot stronger for it.
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The last few games of the season are coming around and that means the Play-offs will soon be upon us as four teams duke it out in an attempt to reach the Premier League.

The four places are currently occupied by Nottingham Forest, Cardiff City, Leicester City and Swansea City. Out of that quartet, Irish interest should perk towards Cardiff.

With Stephen McPhail and Mark Kennedy both playing regularly for The Bluebirds, there could be a couple more players in the top flight of English football next season who have Irish passports.

It should be noted that Thomas Butler (Swansea City) and Conrad Logan (Leicester City) are also in the hunt for promotion, but they don't feature for their respective clubs as much as the Cardiff duo do.

McPhail is undoubtedly a class act

From his days at Leeds United it was always clear that McPhail was a special player. Primarily, he operates as a central midfielder but he possesses a range of passing that most players in his position envy.

Whether he is simply linking play with short direct passes or carving open a defence with a through ball, the 30-year-old is always right in the middle of getting things moving for his team.

It is a shame that he has only 10 caps for the Republic of Ireland, because his talent should really have propelled him on to being a regular for his country. But after his spell with Leeds, it took him quite a while to settle down again at club level.

After a two-year stint at Barnsley, where he was relatively successful by winning promotion to the Coca-Cola Championship, he opted to move on to Cardiff. And since then he has played some of his best football.

Now he is hoping to fire the Welsh outfit into the Premier League and remind Giovanni Trapattoni that he still has plenty left to offer the Irish team.

Fighting for more than just his place

Along with some bad injuries, McPhail has been forced to deal with a rare condition called Sjogren's Syndrome and he was forced to undergo an operation earlier this season to remove a 'pea-sized lump' under his jaw.

There were fears that he had contracted cancer and that he had to fight for his life. But he made an unexpectedly quick return to action after taking the necessary time off to deal with his problem.

That fright surely helped McPhail to focus on just what he wants to achieve in his life and his career. So winning promotion to the Premier League would mean so much more to him than it would for other players.

He is the type of player that belongs in the top flight and even though it won't be easy to get through the Play-offs he certainly won't be giving up the fight.
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For Celtic this season can't end quick enough after losing ground in the Scottish Premier League to rivals Rangers and being dumped out of the Scottish Cup by Ross County.

There is little to play for now and the Irish contingent that are part of the morale-zapped squad can only hope that this summer helps them secure a move elsewhere.

Robbie Keane is highly unlikely to be wearing the famous hooped jersey next season, while Aiden McGeady is surely now going to depart Parkhead after so many years of speculation linking him to various clubs.

A rebuilding process is needed at the Glasgow-based club and both players are at a stage in their careers where they need to be playing regularly for a team that is competing for silverware.

It would be very surprising if they were still there in August as it would take the appointment of a top class manager with persuasive powers to convince them to stick around.

Loan spell has done the job

Despite the way the season is panning out for the Bhoys, the short-term loan for Keane from Tottenham Hotspur has worked wonders as he is now full of confidence again.

The Ireland captain has hit 12 goals since arriving and that says a lot because his goals have come whilst playing for a struggling team. Okay some of the opposition may not be the toughest he has ever played against, but there is a knack to scoring on a consistent basis and Keane is a master of it.

In his absence at Tottenham, Roman Pavlyuchenko and Eidur Gudjohnsen have done well, but Peter Crouch and Jermain Defoe have not been at their best. Is there a home for him at White Hart Lane? Possibly.

However, a move to a rival Premier League club now looks to be a better option. He needs to be wanted by a manager again and if he moved to someone like Wolverhampton Wanderers, he would be linking up with a manager who is amongst his biggest fans.

This will be an intriguing summer for Keane. He has to decide what is best for him now. And even though he has already played for seven different clubs in his career, a fresh move would help the 29-year-old settle at a club where he is valued.

Can McGeady cut it in the Premier League?

I'm not sure about this one. The tricky winger would undoubtedly light up certain games, but the big questions is whether he can he add consistency to his game or not.

If he continues in the same way that he has played for Celtic for the last few years, then he would only shine in glimpses - much like Tottenham's David Bentley.

Whenever he lines out for Ireland, there is a sense that McGeady still has a long way to go before he can reach the level that a player like Damien Duff has played at for so long. He certainly has the ability, but does he have the work ethic?

Several Premier League clubs will join the queue trying to sign him if he opts to quit Celtic. Although it will be a gamble for whoever does eventually land him as he still has a lot to prove.

Youngsters ready to earn their Hoops

The other Irish players currently on the books with Celtic are Darren O'Dea, Graham Carey and Cillian Sheridan. All three still have a chance to make their names at the club.

O'Dea has been around the first-team long enough at this stage, yet he still makes the kind of mistakes that rookie apprentices are scolded for. A loan move to Reading did little for him, so he needs to show that he can improve and stay in the Celtic starting line-up.

Carey is an exciting winger who is currently making headlines on loan with St Mirren. He has a lot of pace, skill and confidence - all of which he showed whilst at Bohemians two years ago - and he probably deserves a chance in the first team.

Sheridan also experienced a less-than-productive loan spell in Championship when he joined Plymouth Argyle. Now that he is back in Scotland with St Johnstone he is scoring goals and looks like he could be recalled by the Hoops to feature heavily next season.

There are also a few younger players eager to make the step up with Richie Towell standing out as the one who could graduate first. The Ireland U-19 international is a tough-tackling midfielder with a good range of passing and is definitely one to watch out for.

Even though Keane and McGeady are likely to move on, there could still be an Irish presence in the Celtic squad if the latest batch of youngsters are afforded opportunities with the SPL giants.
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It has been quite a while since Sean Scannell was mentioned as a potential candidate to break into the Republic of Ireland squad, but after scoring in midweek for Crystal Palace he has shot straight back into the spotlight.

The 19-year-old was once heralded as 'the next best thing' in Irish football after Giovanni Trapattoni surprisingly included him in the extended squad that went to Portugal for a training camp two years ago.

That should have been the start of great things for the London-born attacker, but niggling injuries, loss of form and limited opportunities have restricted his progress.

Just like Terry Dixon, who was destined to be the talent that Steve Staunton discovered, that call-up to the senior set-up perhaps came a little too early for Scannell. He still has a lot of maturing and developing to do.

However, his goal in the 3-1 victory over Watford on Tuesday evening went some way to suggesting that he could be on his way back to his best. He really needs a strong finish to the season.

Out wide or up front?

Perhaps the biggest problem that Scannell still battles with is his best position. He is a quick player who is a threat with the ball at his feet when attacking defenders and can score a range of different goals.

Although due to his pace, he is often deployed as a winger. This probably doesn't suit him as much as it should as his crossing, tracking back and link-up play are not very good.

It is only when he is further forward that he really gets involved in the game. So that would suggest that he should be played as a striker......but.......his goals ratio doesn't help him in that department.

While he scored goals for fun in Academy and Reserve games, it was worrying to see that he only scored three goals last term and has just two so far this year. If he wants to be known solely as a striker then he needs to start scoring on a regular basis.

The Irish Connection

One of the other pleasing things about Crystal Palace's mid-week triumph was that Paddy McCarthy played the full 90 minutes, which is his second game after returning from a long injury lay-off.

The Dubliner has been sorely missed by The Eagles and his comeback could be perfectly timed as the club attempt to drag themselves out of the relegation zone in the Coca-Cola Championship.

Fellow Irishman Alan Lee was an un-used substitute in the Watford game, but he is another player that has been consistently superb for Palace. They will need all three of their Irish players on top form for the remaining games.
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On Wednesday evening, Damien Duff has a chance of helping Fulham take a step closer to the FA Cup final when his team face Tottenham Hotspur in a replay of their quarter-final match.

The FA Cup might not be as highly sought after by the 'bigger' clubs than the Premier League or the Champions League, but for a club like Fulham it is a huge competition. After all, they have only played in the final once and ended up being second best.

Things have been going well for the West Londoners since Roy Hodgson took over and their good form this season has largely been helped by Duff's impact since he joined from Newcastle United.

It may seem like a long time since he was lighting up the group stages of the 2002 World Cup, but the Dubliner has only hit his peak now and he has shown that he still has plenty left to offer at the highest level.

Back to his last

This blog admittedly has given Duff a hard time over the last year. Although the criticism aimed at him from this blog has come when he has under-performed in games where he was needed most (several Republic of Ireland games spring to mind), yet he is a player that generally escapes the scorn of the media and the ordinary fan.

Perhaps everyone still sees him as the sleepy-eyed winger who bedazzled defenders for Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea or for his wonderful individual displays for his country. But all of that is in the past and it hasn't been until this season that he has really stood out.

Okay there were glimpses of what he is capable of when at Newcastle and he was the star man in some international outings, but for a player of his quality he has not had consistency in his game for quite a while.

So it is very refreshing to see how well he has performed for Fulham this season. With 6 goals and 4 assists in the Premier League this term, Duff has definitely gotten his career back on track.

A chance to cap it off in style

If Fulham were to beat Tottenham on Wednesday (not as outlandish as it may seem) then the Cottagers would be one match away from reaching the final - a massive achievement for Hodgson's men.

On top of that, they are through to the quarter-finals of the Europa League with German giants Wolfsburg standing in their way. While they won't take their opponents for granted, they will certainly view them as a team that they can beat.

The pressure is on them to overcome these two huge games. If they do then their chances of ending this season on a high will be greatly enhanced and lifting some form of silverware would not be such a crazy thought.

Of course, a lot depends on how they perform as a team, but the influence that Duff can play in those two games is massive and if he performs then Fulham could be on their way into the semi-finals of both competitions.
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As the focus drifts back towards Giovanni Trapattoni's Republic of Ireland team for the first time since that play-off game in November, it seems as though everyone wants a share of the spotlight.

Along with attending the 2012 European Championships draw in Warsaw, the Italian has been busy taking a closer look at potential new caps. He mentioned a few, as did his assistant Marco Tardelli last week, and his squad for next month's Brazil friendly should be quite interesting.

The obvious names of James McCarthy (Wigan Athletic) and Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers) have been listed in the media as part of the next batch to recieve call-up's, but it is curious to note that Seamus Coleman (Everton) and Greg Cunningham (Manchester City) have been name-dropped by the Irish management despite their limited game-time for their respective clubs.

While there is most certainly a need to introduce some new faces, the Brazil game could provide some fringe players a chance to stake their claim for a starting spot. One of those would be Daryl Murphy, who has reminded people of his talents since joining Ipswich Town on loan.

Let him play him up front

Murphy made it quite clear when he moved to Portman Road on the final day of the January transfer window - "I want to play as a striker". The 26-year-old feels that his club career since moving to the Premier League with Sunderland has been somewhat wasted due to him being played out of position.

There is no doubt that the former Waterford United man can fill the left wing role, but putting him out wide means the biggest parts of his game are not being used. He performs best when operating up front and is already showing that at Ipswich.

Two goals in two games is all the evidence needed to back up Murphy's argument. Whether he can keep that scoring rate up remains to be seen. However, he has put himself back into Trapattoni's plans as another striker to consider giving more caps to.

What he offers when playing in his preferred position is strength, height, power, hold-up play and an ability to score different types of goals. While the Irish boss has tended to use Caleb Folan (Hull City) and Leon Best (Newcastle United) in the strong forward role, Murphy could yet convince that he can make it his own.

Striking options looking a little better

Before the turn of the new year Ireland's striking department was one that not many wanted to speak about. Apart from Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle there wasn't too much to boast about with the bulk of the other contenders not always playing or scoring for their clubs.

That has changed somewhat in the last two weeks as Murphy has hit two, while Shane Long has scored three in two games. It could be perfect timing for both players as the Brazil friendly is rapidly approaching and everyone knows what Keane & Doyle can do.

Best recently sealed a move to Newcastle United and that should be good for him as more will be expected as The Magpies chase automatic promotion from the Coca-Cola Championship. Meanwhile, Jonathan Walters has been superb for Ipswich all season and Anthony Stokes has been firing goals in on a consistent basis for Hibernian in the SPL.

The other striker that may be in Trapattoni's thoughts is West Bromwich Albion's Simon Cox, who would need to get an Irish passport first. Cox is a good striker with a knack of scoring crucial goals, especially inside the box, but should he be higher up the pecking order than Murphy, Long and Stokes?

When Trapattoni announces his squad it will be interesting to see who makes the cut as the roster will be his first indication of what way he is swaying, in terms of personnel, ahead of the European Championship qualifiers later in the year.

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In many ways it was inevitable that Robbie Keane would steal all of the headlines on transfer deadline day, but his loan move from Tottenham Hotspur to Celtic makes sense for all concerned parties.

Keane not only needs to start playing regularly again, he needs to remind people what he is so good at doing on a football pitch. Perhaps he even needs to remind himself as it has been so long since he stunned crowds whilst playing for his club.

Let's leave the Ireland business to one side for now as this loan until the end of the season could be the boost that Keane's career needed and it arrives at a good time too.

Celtic need a leader, who can change the game with a simple flick or measured pass or crucial goal. And Spurs need to him to rediscover his form, but are not prepared to drop other strikers for him.

With just six league goals this season, the 29-year-old knows that more is expected of him - even though he has not played as many minutes as he would have liked - and it is up to him to prove to Spurs that he can get back to his sensational best.

One move too many?

The Dubliner's critics have already loaded up with accusations that he is a player who can't stay put (Celtic are his seventh professional club) and that his days of terrorizing defenders have long since past. They will argue that his strike-rate is not as high as it should be and that he offers more negative points than positive one's.

Attacking him over his numerous clubs is fickle when one doesn't look at the reasons why he moved to each club. Sometimes it was to make the next step in his career, while others simply made sense at the time due to the club's financial position or the Liverpool case when he was used as a pawn in some bizarre boardroom power struggle.

Keane's strike-rate for his clubs has often been overlooked or viewed wrongly. Not many point out that he regularly hits double figures or that he is currently 10th in the list of all-time top scorers in the Premier League, instead he appears to have a reputation for someone who doesn't score enough. But a quick look at the stats reveals that he does indeed find the back of the net more than he is given credit for.

Regarding the balance between positivity and negativity, well one just has to ask Keane's team-mates or managers about his impact on and off the pitch to see which way they side - more often than not it will be positivity that tips the scales.

So is this one move too many? No, not at all. In fact, it is the right move at the right long as the striker makes the most of it.

Trapattoni needs him back on form

Form is the key word for Keane now. For a player to be in good form, they have to be consistently producing what is expected of them. In Keane's case this means that he has to be creating chances for his team-mates and scoring goals.

As soon as he addresses this temporary loss of form then it will perk the attention of Republic of Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni, who relies on the forward to lead his team in the same way that Celtic manager Tony Mowbray is hoping he will inspire The Bhoys.

Keane will be 30 when the European Championship qualifiers roll around. By that time Trapattoni will need him playing his best football. Whether that will be for Celtic or Spurs or another club remains to be seen, but he will be crucial to Ireland's qualification hopes.

Yes, more should be demanded from Keane. This blog often laments him for not contributing enough in games. Yet it should not be forgotten that he is the top scorer for Ireland and has been one of the most successful exports of the Irish game.

But now is the time for Keane to remind everyone just what he can do. Celtic will provide the perfect platform for him to produce a memorable performance that can act as his great comeback.
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