Wednesday 18 October 2017

Wilson reminds O'Neill he has no regrets about turning back on North

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

MARC WILSON has laughed off Michael O'Neill's suggestion that players born in Northern Ireland who have defected to the south would have enjoyed a better international career if they had stayed put.

The Northern Ireland boss said earlier this week that high-profile Republic recruits Wilson, Darron Gibson and James McClean have not had a positive experience in Giovanni Trapattoni's set-up.

He tried and failed to attract Wilson into his squad when he was out of favour with Trapattoni, with the Stoke man stressing that he had no interest in switching allegiance. The defender was not impressed with O'Neill's comments earlier this week.

"I don't know how he could say we would have had a better career if we chose to play for Northern Ireland to be honest," said Wilson.

"I think that's none of his business. You don't pick your country for a career, definitely not."

Trapattoni will be at the Britannia Stadium today to see Wilson's final outing before the World Cup double header with Sweden and Austria. The 25-year-old established himself as the Italian's favoured left-full last October, but then suffered a broken leg which ruled him out of the November and February friendlies.

Monitor

The Irish boss is keen to monitor the player's fitness – and would also like to have a look at West Brom's Shane Long, who is an injury doubt – but he will be watching Wilson at centre-half this afternoon, where he will deputise for Robert Huth.

"I don't mind playing there, though I don't see myself playing there week-in, week-out," said Wilson. "Fitness wise, I feel strong. I've started to feel pretty good. We've got a very good medical staff at Stoke and I was in every day trying to get it right.

"I never realised I'd broken my leg until I had the X-ray.

"I thought it was ligaments in the knee, because I had a pain in my knee. It was a long road to get back, but you have to get on with it."

After today, Wilson will turn his mind to Stockholm. He has watched footage of Sweden's remarkable comeback from four goals down in Germany, and is conscious of the difficulty ahead.

"That was a hell of an achievement," he says. "They've a good squad, some good choices, and obviously (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic, who is scoring goals for fun for PSG. He's quality, but they've quality all over the park."

• Tickets for the Aviva Stadium clash with Austria are available on Ticketmaster, starting at €10 for children and €35 for adults.

Irish Independent

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