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'If Stephen hadn’t made the call and we hadn’t spoke, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here now'

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Harry Arter during a Republic of Ireland training session at The Hive in Barnet, England. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Harry Arter during a Republic of Ireland training session at The Hive in Barnet, England. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Harry Arter during a Republic of Ireland training session at The Hive in Barnet, England. Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

AS England at Wembley looms large, Harry Arter thinks back to his Ireland debut, against England, and concedes that the five years since he wore green for the first time are a disappointment.

But while the 30-year-old has struggled this season at club level at Nottingham Forest under a former Ireland assistant manager, Chris Hughton, Arter says it was a phone call with Stephen Kenny which convinced him that his international career was not yet done and that he could contribute to a new era.

The national team have played 55 games since Arter made his senior debut against England in Dublin but he’s played in just 16 of them, a consequence of injury, loss of form and non-selection for spells: during Mick McCarthy’s 10-game reign he played just once and Arter has appeared in only one of the five games under Kenny’s stewardship.

It seemed, upon Kenny’s ascension to the throne, that persistent under-achievers like Arter would be ditched to make way for younger, hungrier players but Kenny has retained him and placed his trust in him, ending any talk about going into retirement with his 31st birthday on the horizon to save energy for his club career, as David McGoldrick has done.

"That’s because of Stephen. If Stephen hadn’t made the call and we hadn’t spoke, I probably wouldn’t be sitting here now," Arter said from the Ireland camp, having been asked if he had considered stepping away.

"The older I’ve got definitely when you feel like someone’s got your back and has trust in your ability, you really want to repay them for that.

"It would have been easy for Stephen not to select me or to go with the squad that he inherited, so he made a point that he wanted me to come back and try and influence the group. It was very much the case that the confidence and belief that I felt he had in me to come back and make a difference, or at least be involved made up my mind.

"The older you get, the more you really appreciate someone believing in you. That in itself was something that just made me really excited to come along and work with him. And I had watched his U-21 teams. They played a real good brand of football and one I can hopefully learn from and help in the same breath."

A regular at Premier League level for some time, Arter was unable to bring that form onto the international stage.

"Some unbelievable highs and unfortunately some lows that if I could go back and change or erase then I definitely would," he says when asked to sum up his time with Ireland. "But from a bigger picture, looking back now, so much pride to pull on the green jersey and play the amount of times I had and be involved over the last five or six years, it’s been a great experience, I’ve met some tremendous players and learned an awful lot from individuals within the group. The only disappointing thing was the injuries and missing out on the Euros, some real big lows, really.

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"Internationals are always tough because you have a such a large break between games. If you have a bad performance you potentially won’t play the next game and you could be waiting for four to five months before you can get a run.

"I’ll be 31 in December but with the way the manager wants to play here, I feel that hopefully suits the way I want to play. I think as a group we’ve all kind of welcomed it. We want to be playing a stylish brand of football, we want to try to keep the ball – without losing that fighting spirit that has made us successful over the last five, six and seven years, when you can be hanging on at 0-0 and then nick a winner at the end.

"As much as that does bring success at times, I think for the long-term, and definitely with all the young players coming through, I’m not sure that would be the most successful (approach). I feel very excited for all the young lads going to experience a new Ireland in a way, a new way of playing football. For the senior and older lads, it’s kind of about enjoying it while we can. For the games coming up, I know myself and the rest of the group are really looking forward to it."

While Arter is relieved to be back in the frame with Ireland, it’s been a difficult year at club level. On loan to Fulham from Bournemouth last season he helped them win promotion to the Premier but even that feat, and the fact that Fulham boss Scott Parker is his brother-in-law, could not lead to a permanent deal. Unwanted at Bournemouth, he did finally move, to Nottingham Forest, but has played sporadically since Hughton took over.

"Three or four weeks ago the (previous) manager had good plans for the club and obviously wanted me to play a big part in that in coming to the club and you almost have to start again with a new manager, and I haven’t really been, in my opinion, given a real chance yet to kind of cement or get into the team," he says.

"So hopefully over the next three or four games, the manager will give me that chance. It’s almost like a clean slate for every player and it’s a little bit disappointing that I didn’t get that opportunity at the start of Chris’s reign but I’ll have to work hard and get into his team."


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