Monday 23 October 2017

‘I’d mark Ibrahimovic if Trapattoni asked me,’ insists Green

Paul Green lined up in midfield beside Glenn Whelan in the Irish training session at Malahide yesterday
Paul Green lined up in midfield beside Glenn Whelan in the Irish training session at Malahide yesterday
Liam Kelly

Liam Kelly

PAUL Green could well adopt the Millwall anthem as his theme song – "no one likes us, we don't care".

It's not that Green is inherently dislikeable, either as a person or as a footballer. In fairness, when he met the media for interviews in Malahide on Monday night, the 29-year-old Leeds United midfielder came across as a decent bloke.

But, somehow, his face doesn't fit well with the fans, some elements of the media and with football pundits, despite making 14 appearances for the Republic of Ireland.

So who does like Paul Green? In his world, the two most important and influential men are his Leeds United gaffer Neil Warnock and Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni. They are the men whose opinion counts. They like the job he does for them. Sorted.

Warnock and Trap appreciate Green's hard-working, diligent qualities in midfield, his reliability, his tackling ability.

Passer

Green is also a good passer of the ball with a better touch than outsiders credit. In return, Green hopes to repay the faith of Warnock and Trap by helping Leeds to promotion from the Championship and doing all he can to get the Irish through the challenge of Sweden on Friday and Austria on Tuesday.

Coincidentally, both managers are in tenuous situations at the moment. Leeds lie 10th in the Championship, seven points away from the crucial last play-off spot, while Trapattoni's future will be on the line if results go against Ireland in the next week.

Warnock has said he will quit if Leeds fail to get promotion, but Green hopes that won't happen. "I'll be gutted if he does go because I think he's probably one of the best managers I've played under," he said.

"His passion and desire for the game is still there and that's why, in some ways, I don't think he'd want to retire because he's still got the passion and drive to get promoted.

"He'd love to get promoted with Leeds United because of the size of the club, the history and everything about it. Everyone in our changing room would hate to see him go because he's been so good for us.

"There are eight games left when we get back. Obviously it's going to be tough to get into the play-offs, but the Championship is just a crazy league at the moment," he said.

As for Trapattoni, Green has no qualms about the Italian leaving him out of sight and out of mind until there's an emergency. Trap omitted Green from his Euro 2012 finals squad until injury to Keith Fahey caused him to send out an SOS to the player.

Green duly turned up and came on as a late sub for Glenn Whelan in the match against Spain. Last month he wasn't in the frame for the friendly with Poland, but, when David Meyler had to bow out, the phone started buzzing and so did Green.

"It's crazy (the) way it comes about," said Green. "The late call-up against Poland, I literally trained for 15 minutes because my plane got delayed (on the day before the match).

"Then I got 45 minutes in the match and I thought I did quite well. He (Trap) seems to stay with me so I do appreciate him bringing me into squad."

Green, born in Pontefract, Yorkshire, qualifies for Ireland via his grandmother, who was a native of Mayo.

He revealed that for years he didn't presume to declare for the Republic, despite the promptings of his grandfather, who suggested he take the plunge. Green hesitated for a long time as he was playing with lowly Doncaster.

But when Doncaster soared through the divisions to get to the Championship, and then he moved to Derby County, he felt it was worth declaring his allegiance to the green jersey.

"Coming through the lower leagues, I never declared myself. My grandad said 'declare yourself'. I said 'no, no, I can't' because I played in the lower leagues and I never thought they'd even look at me," he said.

"After a couple of seasons in the Championship I thought I'd declare myself and see what happened. Thankfully I got into the training squad and it just stemmed from there really.

"I got my full debut against Algeria, thankfully, and scored as well.

"It was a nice experience, but to get called up for the Euros is probably one of the major achievements of my career so far."

Green came back from an eight-month spell out of action due to a cruciate ligament injury in 2011, and, at the start of the current season, he missed eight weeks following a knee problem suffered against Wolves.

He's been a regular for Leeds since returning from that injury, and is fit and eager for the fray on behalf of club and country.

Yesterday, Green performed alongside Whelan in midfield during training at Malahide.

An indication of Trap's intentions for Friday and a man-marking job on Swedish danger man Zlatan Ibrahimovic perhaps?

Green would love it, but he's not shouting the odds. "That's up to the gaffer what he decides to do," he said. "If he did ask me to do it, I'd try to do it the best I could, but Ibrahimovic is a great player and it would be a tough job."

Irish Independent

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