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Trap belief lifts St Ledger after 'nightmare' spell with Foxes

FROM THE cold shoulder at club level to the white-hot heat of a vital European Championship qualifier.

Sean St Ledger is this week the Irish player who's enduring that experience of being a key man for his country but a fringe player for his club. The 26-year-old will start in an air-tight Irish defence against that free-scoring Armenian side at Lansdowne Road tonight, St Legder now a firm favourite of manager Giovanni Trapattoni.

But he's not so popular with another grey-haired continental-born manager these days as Leicester City boss Sven-Goran Eriksson hasn't even selected St Ledger for the bench, never mind the team, for their last four games.

It all adds up to what St Ledger admits is a "nightmare", but we've been here so often in the past with the Ireland squad, as players like Ian Harte, Robbie Keane, Shay Given and many others have been warmly welcomed into the bosom of the Irish team despite the lack of first team football with their clubs.

In the short-term things have to change, especially if Ireland get past Armenia and into the play-offs, as St Ledger admits, as he concedes that he will see a loan move away from Leicester if he remains out in the cold there.

"I feel fine and sharp. It was great to get on and play on Friday night. It's difficult and personally frustrating for me to be not playing for my club," St Ledger told the Herald ahead of Armenia.

"It's a bit of a nightmare at the moment, to be honest. I want to play but to keep my place with the Ireland team I need to be playing at club level regularly and I haven't been doing that.

"I haven't even made the bench for the last few games with the club and that's frustrating. It's not down to injury, it's purely tactical.

"It's hard to get angry with the manager as he's such a nice man and a good person, he's brilliant to work under. I want to be successful at Leicester. It's a massive club with great potential so I have to keep working as hard as I can to stay in there.

"But maybe I need to go on loan to get some football for the time being. If we do get to the play-offs I need to be playing if I am to stay in the team and if I'm going to be match fit."

St Ledger joined Leicester in the summer as part of the fall-out from Preston's relegation to League One, but the move has not gone according to plan and he's made just one league appearance for the Foxes.

"It's not easy when you can't even make the bench. You only have five subs on the bench in the Championship and our right back can play centre half so they have other options. I just have to deal with it, but it's been a very frustrating period," the player says.

"I have spoken to Sven about it and he said he'll speak to me again after the international break. We have only three centre halves at the club and if one of them gets injured then I am back in the team, but it's not easy.


"The manager here with Ireland has faith and belief in me and that means a lot to me," added St Ledger, glad to be in the Ireland squad where he is wanted.

The Irish defence, which has kept eight successive clean sheets, is truly a moveable feast, which will be evident again tonight when Trapattoni will change personnel due to Stephen Ward's suspension.

The plus for Trapattoni is that his defenders seem to understand his system and the clean-sheet record does not rely on individuals but on the system: there has been at least one change to the back four in each game on that eight-match run.

"We have shown that we can cope with personnel changes at the back. The manager deserves great credit for the organisation at the back, everyone knows their job when they come into the team. We all know what to do and that's shown in the results," says St Ledger, who has missed just one of the last five games (he was suspended against Russia).

"I see tonight as a cup game, winner takes all. There is a massive incentive for us, to try and get to the play-offs."