Redknapp backs versatile Wilson to take centre stage
Marc Wilson's first manager in the professional football ranks, Harry Redknapp, firmly believes his protege can assume the mantle from Richard Dunne as the defensive rock of Ireland's team.
The Stoke City man flanked Dunne at left-back for his last cap against Kazakhstan last October but has since switched to the central role under the new Ireland managerial team.
Since taking over in the Ireland hotseat back in November, Martin O'Neill has started Wilson in the five games he's been available for.
Redknapp knows all about the quality Wilson possesses, having recruited him as a 15-year-old for Portsmouth and subsequently handing the graduate his first-team debut against Chelsea in 2008.
Although the manager left the crisis club shortly afterwards for Tottenham Hotspur, while Wilson stayed on for a year to become Pompey's youngest captain at 22, Redknapp has taken great pride in watching from afar the subsequent progress for club and country of the standout pupil.
A series of false starts to his senior international career under Giovanni Trapattoni have restricted Wilson to a mere 17 caps by the age of 26.
Now Dunne has officially departed the international scene, Redknapp is sure Wilson is capable of filling the giant cavity left in the heart of the defence over the long-term.
"Marc is a great player who has done very well and is a good lad," said the QPR boss before tonight's friendly against Athlone Town.
"I signed him for Portsmouth when he left school. He was very small then but when the scout who got him for me, Robert Walker, introduced me to his dad and brother I could see he was going to grow into a big lad.
"He can play anywhere across the back, centre-half especially, but he's also played left-back. I think his best position is alongside the centre-half or in the middle of the park."
Rather than be concerned about Wilson's penchant for playing out from the back, as O'Neill publicly was after the scoreless draw in Poland last November, his former boss believes that aspect of his game should be embraced at international level.
Redknapp even likened Wilson's style to his most recent defensive capture, former Manchester United stalwart Rio Ferdinand.
"Martin likes his defenders to boot the ball up the pitch, doesn't he?" jested O'Neill's former Premier League rival. "I'd tell Martin that if he was here.
"Marc's a bit in the Rio Ferdinand style because he likes to play, doesn't he? If you want to play football out from the back, Marc is the perfect man.
"He can read the game and knows what he's doing. I could see Marc playing in midfield, too. He'd be a great No 6."