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Big guns lining up Ireland

WHO will take a punt on Stephen Ireland? The Premier League's three management veterans are lining up and his future could rest between Alex Ferguson, Harry Rednapp and Arsene Wenger.

Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni, making his final preparations for tonight's tussle with Paraguay, will watch events as the unfold in the next few weeks with great interest now that Ireland has apparently slapped in a transfer request.

Could a change of club be accompanied by a change of heart about international football? Ferguson and Rednapp have already been mentioned as potential new mentors for Irish football's problem child and both men are skilled at extracting the best from mavericks.

Manchester United's creaking midfield badly needs an injection of life and Ireland's abilities could be profitably used by Ferguson in attack as well.

Wenger's fatherly approach to management might also be an attraction for Ireland, who clearly needs more attention than most professional footballers.

But Spurs too could provide a third home from home for Ireland, who has fallen out of love with Manchester City and Roberto Mancini, despite exhaustive efforts to convince the Corkman to stay by club officials and the coach.

Redknapp is known to be an admirer and featured in some speculation about Ireland during the January transfer window. With Champions League qualification in the bank, he will have money to spend and would be a more acceptable alternative for City than Old Trafford.

If Ireland did end up at White Hart Lane, it could have repercussions for Irish skipper Robbie Keane, who yesterday cleared up any doubts about his future plans.

"I have got a three-year contract left and I am going to report back for pre-season training on July 5," he said yesterday during his pre-Paraguay press conference