Injury setback for Pilkington
Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni was dealt a blow to his preparations for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria when Norwich City's Anthony Pilkington pulled up injured during his side's 0-0 draw with Southampton in the Premier League.
Pilkington will be hoping that it is not a reoccurrence of the hamstring injury that kept him out of the Poland friendly.
On Friday, Trapattoni had given his clearest indication yet that he would start Pilkington against Sweden on March 22. He was full of praise for him and when asked whether he was definitely giving the 24-year-old his first senior start the manager laughed and said "I am 51 per cent sure".
He said that he had huge trust in him: "Pilkington is a typical character, we saw him in many games. He has a good personality with or without the ball. He's technical. It's not easy to play near the line but he can take [a] touch very well and go on goal. I think I am very, very confident about him – very confident," he added.
Pilkington, who was born in Blackburn, qualifies for Ireland through his father's mother. He only recently declared and was included in Trapattoni's squad for last month's friendly against Poland. However, he was forced to withdraw at the last minute because of a hamstring injury which he picked up playing against QPR in the Premier League.
The manager has been monitoring Pilkington's performances for Norwich; the attacking midfielder impressed and the Italian thinks he could have the right character for the test against Sweden.
"This first game is a tough opponent," said Trapattoni. "Psychologically, we have to know the character of the players. For example, James McCarthy – I always said he plays the game shy. We must understand the character of the players. James is sensible; he's not shy. I'll know Pilkington better when he is with us. He is more of an extrovert."
He last played for Ireland in October 2008 at under 21 level against Lithuania. Trapattoni was also asked about the FAI's comments that he should deal with team matters in-house after the Stephen Kelly controversy undermined his job.
"No, everyone has their job, their position," explained Trapattoni.
"I have a good conversation with John. I had a very good meeting with John. He knows the situation well. I clarify always with John, for me it's no problem. In my team, I am always clear with the players because I've nothing to hide."