Tuesday 16 January 2018

Irish players searching for a winter of content

Christmas is a hectic time for footballers, with the parties taking place early in the month to pave the way for a busy schedule that provides little time for festive celebrations.

Goalkeeper David Forde replaces Shay Given during Ireland's match against Northern Ireland in 2011
Goalkeeper David Forde replaces Shay Given during Ireland's match against Northern Ireland in 2011
Shane Long and Wesley Hoolahan are both facing uncertain club futures despite a relatively successful spell at international level
Aiden McGeady
Noel Hunt
Paul Green
Sean St Ledger
Owen Garvan
Paddy Madden
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

For a number of Irish players, the headaches will be provided by the uncertainty that surrounds their own futures ahead of the transfer window opening in January. There is no guarantee that it will be a busy month for Irish movement. Indeed, it is the developments over the Yuletide period that could help them to reach a decision on their next move. Daniel McDonnell takes a look at the players affected.

SHANE LONG

The Tipperary native has said all the right things since his brilliant brace against Aston Villa, giving the impression that he is settled in the area and would like to stay at West Brom.

However, the fact remains that he is still waiting to agree a new contract, and the decision of the club hierarchy to sack Steve Clarke on Saturday night complicates matters, especially when you recall the club had accepted an offer for the striker from Hull last August before the deal fell through.

Traditionally, clubs are more inclined to shop for strikers in January so the 26-year-old can expect to be the subject of further speculation. Either way, he won't have to busk for a living.

WES HOOLAHAN

The playmaker is under contract at Carrow Road until 2015, but there has to come a point where he can no longer accept spending long periods on the substitutes' bench.

He's waited long enough to reach this level, so it would be a waste to allow the full season follow the same path of the first half. Hughton has involved the Dubliner this month, but the manager retains a preference for two strikers, so his chances in his preferred role are likely to be limited.

If the situation doesn't improve over Christmas, he would be wise to explore other possibilities.

AIDEN MCGEADY

Roberto Martinez is an admirer of McGeady and discussions have taken place about signing a pre-contract agreement to bring the Irish international to Everton in the summer when his contract at Spartak Moscow expires.

If qualification for Brazil had been achieved, an international manager would have encouraged McGeady to move now.

This is different, given that Everton's growing stature makes them worth waiting for. That said, if a deal can be brokered with Spartak to secure an early release for an agreeable fee, it would be the obvious best case scenario.

DAVID FORDE

Another with a contract that expires at the conclusion of the campaign. Forde is unlikely to put pen to paper on a new one at Millwall with opportunity knocking after the best year of his professional career.

Tony Pulis is an admirer and Neil Lennon has lined the Galwegian up as an alternative if Fraser Forster departs for pastures new.

Otherwise, the best offer for the 34-year-old could be a lucrative switch to a more established Premier League club as a deputy. He'll have to mull over the options this Christmas and maybe even speak to Martin O'Neill about it.

SHAY GIVEN

The forgotten man has made a welcome return to action on an emergency loan at Middlesbrough with a suspension opening up a short term opportunity.

He has stepped in for the homegrown Jason Steele, who is well regarded, and there's been no suggestion that 'Boro want him permanently.

Given has admitted to missing the buzz of football, but with two and a half years left on a bumper contract at Aston Villa, he's unattractive to prospective buyers.

There's still a chance the Irish door could open again if he chooses correctly. Another loan is odds on to be the logical step with Swansea reported to be considering a move for him as cover for Michel Vorm.

NOEL HUNT

It's a real surprise that the Waterford man has found himself in a situation where he might need to move on again, considering he only joined Leeds in the summer and followed Brian McDermott to Elland Road.

But Hunt has effectively been frozen out of the manager's plans since the beginning of October and will have to consider his options seriously if the Christmas period doesn't bring about a change in those circumstances.

He turns 31 on St Stephen's Day and could do without wasting a season at this stage of his career although he may be a decent option for another Championship club.

PAUL GREEN

The unfashionable engine-room performer is often derided as 'only a Championship midfielder' in the context of the international football scene, but he's not even in that bracket at the moment after also falling well out of McDermott's plans.

Green, inherited from Neil Warnock by McDermott, was taken off along with Hunt in the 62nd minute of the October 5 thrashing at his former club Derby. Since then, his only senior appearances came in Martin O'Neill's opening double header.

He did well in Poland, although the manager admitted he knew little of the player beforehand. Green is in danger of slipping out of the squad unless his situation improves, particularly with David Meyler in the Hull side

SEAN ST LEDGER

The Leicester defender has endured desperate fortune in 2013 and it was impossible not to feel sympathy for the 28-year-old when he hobbled to the sideline in the first half of the Irish friendly in Poland that was supposed to nurse him back towards full health.

As it stands, he's out of club action since August, and that's after acknowledging that his future prospects with Leicester were limited. He's a very good defender on his day, but his injury record is going to turn some people away.

OWEN GARVAN

Not much that the Dubliner can do at the moment other than work hard in training considering that former Palace manager Ian Holloway left him out of the club's 25-man Premier League squad.

The arrival of Tony Pulis offers a clean slate, but he is talking about bringing in recognised top flight experience in January.

Garvan was deprived the opportunity to show what he can do at that level and will find out where he stands pretty soon.

PADDY MADDEN

The Yeovil dream has turned sour for Madden. In August, when he won his first Irish cap after his goalscoring feats secured unlikely promotion to the Championship, his boss Gary Johnson travelled to Wales to watch.

Now, the pair barely talk, with Madden unable to force a move away in the emergency loan window.

Injuries, a loss of form and contract disagreements have created an awkward situation and the ex-Bohs man will have to start again in League One come January.

Irish Independent

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