Best's text to Tardelli falls on deaf ears

LEON BEST last week took the time to send Marco Tardelli a text message to let him - and his boss Giovanni Trapattoni - know that Newcastle United had removed the cotton wool from around the player and that he was back in full training after recovering from the knee injury which had kept him out of action for two months.

The fact that Tardelli didn't text back a response is a clear sign, if one was needed, that Best is very much an outsider when it comes to the make-up of the 23-man squad for the finals, appearing to be far from the Ireland manager's thoughts as the Euro 2012 finals edge closer.

If Newcastle United man Best fails to make the cut for the finals, Ireland would travel to the tournament with not a single player drawn from the top six in England's top flight - a stark contrast to Euro 88. Back then, seven members of Ireland's 20-man squad in '88 came from England's top six clubs, not to mention the three Celtic players who'd just won the Scottish league.

On paper, his omission would make sense - Best has not played for his club since February due to a knee injury and has only five games left with Newcastle this season to prove his fitness. And he's used to the cold shoulder from Ireland, as the last 24 international games have come and gone without any involvement from Best, who was last capped against Brazil in London more than two years ago.

But speaking today to the Evening Herald, the Nottingham-born but Dublin-raised striker says that he's desperate - and deserving - to go to the finals and has put his summer plans, including a family wedding, on hold until he gets final word from the Ireland boss about his intentions for Best.

"Sometimes it is hard to understand," says Best, who feels that his contribution to a successful Newcastle side this season should count for something.

"A tournament like the Euros doesn't come around too often and when you stick with what you know, stick with the players who have always been there, it doesn't always go the right way, sometimes you have to pick the players who are on form and playing well regardless of what happened before, if you want to do well at the Euros you have to pick the players who are doing well.

"I'm the only Irish player in the top six in the Premier League. Even if Trap has his starting strikers already in mind that's ok, I know I have missed a lot of the recent Ireland games but I feel I have developed a lot as a player but I haven't really played for Ireland since I was in the Premier League, which is hard to understand.

"It's been a long time since I played for my country and I feel I have progressed as a player and matured as a person in the last two years or so. Even if Trap doesn't see me as being in the Ireland team I'd like to think I could get into the squad to show him what I can do in training and prove that I deserve to be there.

"I feel I have a lot to offer. There is a lot of competition for the Irish strikers, the lads who are doing the job for the team know that there are good strikers behind them putting on the pressure," added Best, who earned six of his seven caps while at Coventry City.

"There are players who are doing very well - Robbie in America, Aiden in Russian, Jon Walters is doing well, so I accept that there are other players doing well and it will be be very tough call for the manager to make.

"You also have players at Wolves who may be relegated and if the manager picks players from a relegated team and leaves out players from a team that's doing well, that would be hard to understand. It's going to be hard for the manager to make those calls," he added.

"My whole life now is waiting on the Euros and what will happen, everything is on hold for that. If the manager can turn around and tell me that I'm not in the squad, all of the months of planning will be gone. My brother is getting married in the summer but I don't know if I can make the wedding or not because of the Euros, I've put it all on hold," he says. "If I don't make it I'd watch on TV but I would be gutted not to go. It's funny how my career has panned out. When I was at Coventry I was given a chance with Ireland, the manager gave me a great chance to prove myself and I felt that whenever I was given a chance by Mr Trapattoni I did ok for him, I did more than enough.

"But since I went to Newcastle I haven't had a chance. Players like Jon Walters and Simon Cox have done well for Ireland but they have been given the chance and I haven't. You can only go on what you have done and I haven't done much for Ireland in the last two years but only because I haven't had a chance."

This season was shaping up to be a good one for Best at Newcastle but a knee injury, sustained on Premier League duty in February, called a halt. But now he's close to full fitness and eager to get going.

"I texted Marco (Tardelli) the other day when I had my first session back training. It's funny because it's coming to the end of the season for me but I feel like my season's just starting, because of the Euros, my aim isn't just to finish the season strong, my aim is to get into the Irish squad and have a good Euros. But Marco didn't text me back so maybe that's not a good sign," he says.

"I have trained for three days now and everything has gone well, it's just a matter of sharpness now, a matter of getting sharp and getting strength back into my legs, but I am feeling fine, training is going well."