KEITH ANDREWS refuses to believe that he is no longer a first-choice central midfield option for Ireland.
The Bolton man collected the 2012 senior international Player of the Year award on Sunday night for his performances in the European Championships, but injury and suspension have reduced his participation since the Polish adventure.
Andrews is sidelined again this week, which means the Whelan/McCarthy duo could link up again after getting the nod for the November friendly with Greece when all three were available. However, the Dubliner is making good progress in his recovery from a quad muscle problem and is on target to be available for next month's World Cup qualifiers with Sweden and Austria. He expects to make a strong case for inclusion.
"I wouldn't go as far as to say I'm not first choice," said Andrews. "I don't know if I was before that but every competitive game I've been available for since I've been in, I've started so if the manager wants to shuffle around things in friendlies against Greece in November it's the right thing to do.
"James is a fantastic prospect, in fact he's not a fantastic prospect, he's a fantastic player. He's the future of the midfield, I make no bones about it. But the manager knows what I'm about and what I can bring to the team and the squad.
"I'm disappointed to be missing it (tomorrow), I cherish every cap I get, but it's one of those unfortunately – I just have to get ready for March.
"I got my opportunity when Steven Reid was unfortunate to have the knee injury and there was a gap there. Over the last few months, James has got a lot of games and has been very impressive. So regardless of this, the manager is going to have some kind of dilemma."
Andrews returned to England yesterday for treatment on his injury, but says that picking up the award on Sunday night will live long in his memory.
"When I was nominated last year along with Richie Dunne and Robbie Keane, I was a little bit in disbelief. Obviously, I didn't win it. To actually win it, well, to play once for my country was a goal I wanted to achieve and to go and do what I've done makes me very proud."