WIGAN boss Roberto Martinez has backed Ireland midfielder James McCarthy to hit top form in the coming weeks and go on to impress for Ireland at Euro 2012.
This has been a difficult season for the 21-year-old at club level as well as internationally as Martinez believes that McCarthy is still playing catch-up after picking up an injury in pre-season.
"James' situation this season has probably been down to a combination of factors," Martinez said.
"The injury he picked up against Villarreal had an effect on his pre-season training programme, so his physical levels were behind where they should have been.
"He had another soft-tissue problem just before the Newcastle game which didn't help, but he is near to returning to full fitness.
"This season has been a little bit stop-start for him, and to have the carrot of the European Championships to look forward to could give him that feel-good factor to enjoy his football.
"I would say he'll be back to his best for the Christmas period. He's now got a real strong three months ahead of him, before the pre-Euros friendlies come around, and he has to make the most of that."
McCarthy has been in and out of the Wigan side this season and he's also struggled to impose himself with Ireland. He has played no part in the last 11 senior internationals -- McCarthy's last cap came in the 3-2 defeat to Uruguay in March, though he was promoted to the bench for the second leg of the Euro 2012 play-off against Estonia.
He's not guaranteed a place in the Irish squad for the finals but Martinez believes that McCarthy will improve with international experience.
"When any of our players go away with their countries for international duty, it makes them better players, better individuals," Martinez commented.
"Any experience of major tournament football brings them on even more, and I expect that to be the case with James next summer. To be involved with a senior squad at the age of just 21 is a phenomenal achievement, and to sample a major finals would be a unique opportunity to move on to the next level.
"A lot of players find it difficult to perform on the big stage. They become a little bit emotional, which takes away some of the energy from their game.
"But in James' case, the bigger the occasion, the bigger the performance, and I'm looking forward to watching him rub shoulders with the best in Europe.
"As a player, technically and tactically, he is gifted and it's hard to explain how a player who has just turned 21 can have those levels.
"In addition to that, the maturity and the mental composure he has will allow him to perform in a big tournament."