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Surprise call-up to put Green in shop window

PAUL GREEN is surrounded by a media scrum when Giovanni Trapattoni walks past and interrupts the discussion.

He taps Green on the shoulder, points in his direction and addresses the crowd. "This is a good player," he says. "Wise."

The 29-year-old smiles. He is in good spirits as he reflects on a whirlwind 48 hours that brought him from a barbecue in his parents' house in Pontefract in Yorkshire to preparations for a major international football tournament.

Green is aware that his style does not always endear him to the general public. Indeed, he admits that he is far less pleasing on the eye than the unfortunate player he replaced, Keith Fahey.

"I'm a bit more erratic," he suggests. "And he's a bit more pleasurable on the ball. I'm just delighted to be here."

He thought the dream was dashed when Trapattoni called him the day before he named his finals squad and said that he was placing him on standby. So, on Saturday evening, Green didn't know what to think when the name of Mary O'Brien -- an employee in the FAI's international department -- flashed up on his phone.

This was good news. Luckily, he hadn't taken a beer yet. There was driving to do.

"She said, 'you've got the call-up and Trapattoni wants you.' I couldn't believe it at the time and I was so surprised," he says. "I got off the phone and told my family, who were screaming.

"I had to go back to Derby, where I live. I got in about midnight and got my stuff ready. Then I was up at 4.0 and on the plane at 6.0."

He did find time to text Fahey and offer his sympathy. The Birmingham midfielder didn't reply straight away, but then Green acknowledges that it's a difficult time for the Dubliner. "It's very unlucky for him," he says.

But football tends to take people on a rollercoaster. Green has tasted the lows in the past 18 months, after starting the first four qualifiers in the heart of the Irish midfield.

Just when his career graph appeared to be heading upwards, he sustained a serious knee problem. He tore his cruciate ligaments, with the added complication of a medial ligament issue meaning he had to wait for six weeks before he could even have an operation.


"It was probably the toughest time of my career," admits the midfielder, who climbed the divisions with Doncaster before moving to Derby in 2008.

"I just had to set myself targets. You can be the forgotten man. Getting into the Derby team was the first target, and if I could get a call-up to the Czech Republic game (in February) that was another target and then obviously making the squad.

"I knew it was going to be difficult to get in -- and it's tough for Keith Fahey."

The Irish management team was a source of support through that miserable time, making the odd phone call or sending a text message to remind Green that he remained in their thoughts.

"Yeah, that was a fantastic boost, to get a call when you're injured. You have the dark days, so it's nice to get a text and a call from the manager to see how you're getting on, and he just said, 'don't rush back, there's time for you yet.' It was nice to get that call and still be part of his plans."

It means that another part of his summer is delayed, namely his next career move. Green is unattached after rejecting a fresh contract offer from Derby.

His agent is working on the next step and Leeds are one club on his trail. Perhaps the Euros could open doors, even if there are many people who feel he is lucky to be here.

Green's response to the sceptics?

"Everybody is allowed their opinion. I just come out here and do what I can," he says. "I think I can cope at this level. I don't think the manager would have me here if he didn't think that."

Irish Independent