Saturday 27 May 2017

Hunt aims to ensure he does his talking on the pitch

STEPHEN Hunt wants to play against Andorra, but which tactic will he use to try and get the nod from manager Giovanni Trapattoni?

The 30-year-old left-midfielder has tried different approaches with various managers when he considered he had earned a place in a team.

Direct and blunt was his modus operandi with Steve Coppell at Reading on one memorable occasion.

"I remember when I first got into the team (with Reading) there was a guy injured on the Friday and I'd been patient for about a year.

"The first thing I did as soon as the whistle blew, I was straight over and told him, 'don't even think about playing anybody else. I want to play.'

"You have to do it, because there's two or three players might play in that position and you have to put the seed in his head, and then you've done your job," recalled Hunt last night.

Did it work? "Yes," was the answer. But what about signor Trapattoni and the Irish team?

"I've said one or two times to him, 'listen, I want to play' a couple of days before the game, because sometimes he has the team in his mind early in the week.

"But you might think when should I say it or if I should say it."

The Irish boss has generally reacted well, usually saying he appreciated the player's honesty and leaving it with a "we'll see".

"Sometimes he'll say, 'you're playing.' It all depends. Sometimes the assistant is easier to go to, so you say it to Marco (Tardelli) and he'll drop it in and you see where that gets you.

"After the Slovakia game (Hunt came on as an 85th-minute sub) I remember saying to Marco that I was disappointed at not playing.

"What he said to me will remain private but I have belief in them and, to a certain degree, they have belief in me so I'm happy with it," said Hunt.

The lively winger will hope his luck remains good, as last week 8/1 shot St Devote, the horse owned by Hunt and fellow Irish star John O'Shea, scored the biggest win of its career in the Kilbegnet EBF Novice Chase at Roscommon.

There's still one issue -- Hunt has gained a reputation as an impact substitute and as a go-to player for tough away games.

There's also the suspicion that he's not considered creative enough but the Wolves player doesn't lose any sleep over that.

"Depends on what you call creative. If it's an easy cross or a bit of skill that looks amazing, whether it's effective or not is another thing," he said.

"Doyler (Kevin Doyle) will tell you he likes crosses in the box.

"Steve Coppell used to say a bad cross is as good as a good cross sometimes because it ends up working in your favour. That's what I'm all about, I suppose.

"I don't have five step-overs. I don't have a trick to a certain degree but I know what I have in terms of getting at defenders, being positive and eventually I'll go past them. And then when that happens I know I can set up a goal.

player

"I know what kind of a player I am -- a 100 percenter. It got me to where I am today and I won't stop doing it.

"Let's be honest about it, I'm not going to turn into Messi now, am I? But what I know is I will be effective and I'll have a good influence on the team."

The trip to Andorra brings back memories of his Ireland debut against fellow minnows San Marino -- a night the team barely scraped a 2-1 win and manager Steve Staunton got rollicked by Republic fans.

Worst night of your Irish career?

"You must be joking," he said. "The best night. My first game in an Irish jersey. But yes, this game is like my debut to a certain degree.

"It will be nervy, it will be tight. People might be asking, 'where the hell is this going?' on the night, but I'll tell you now, it won't be four or five goals and it won't be pretty.

"You're playing for your country. You should feel under pressure. But until we have the three points, we've to stay strong and go for the win.

"It will happen but we might have to be patient."

Irish Independent

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