Sunday 25 March 2018

McCarthy certain to figure in future plans but Trap unlikely to change 'the system'

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI will bring James McCarthy back into the Ireland squad for next month's friendly with Norway, but the Irish manager has again asserted his belief that making wholesale changes is a dangerous course of action.

An uninspiring haul of one point from a possible six from the crunch Euro 2012 qualifiers with arch-rivals Russia and Slovakia has led to further questions about the depth of Trapattoni's squad and his favoured style of play.

Ireland take on Norway in November and then Wales in the Carling Nations Cup in February before their next meaningful game, the visit of Macedonia to Dublin next March.

Trapattoni says he will look at newcomers in those games, but fell short of stating that he will change his system, instead looking at steady, gradual changes rather than a complete overhaul.

McCarthy, a ball-playing midfielder, won his first senior cap against Brazil in February but missed a chance to impress -- and perhaps dirtied his bib when pulling out of May's training camp due to fatigue on the advice of Wigan.

He is set to figure against Norway, while Stoke's Jonathan Walters is expected to be called up. His club colleague Marc Wilson, who failed to make the bench in Tuesday night's 1-1 draw with Slovakia, is in line for an international debut as well.

"Obviously, we look for other players," said Trapattoni yesterday morning, after just a few hours' sleep following the team's return from Zilina. "McCarthy, we look at him and not only him. Maybe one or two others.

"McCarthy plays for his club. On the bench we have players who are not playing for their clubs. It is also another chance for (Keith) Fahey."

The problem for McCarthy, who turns 20 next month, is that it's unclear where he would fit into Trapattoni's system. He has experience of operating in a deep midfield role for his club but the Italian is unconvinced that he is mature enough to be deployed in a holding berth for his country.

While the Glaswegian can operate on the wing, Trapattoni seems to feel he would be better suited playing off a lone striker. That would mean a formation shift.

"I'm not afraid to change the system," he declared. "It depends on the players with you. Now, we have McCarthy, and I think he could play behind the striker, like Stephen Ireland could. When I managed Inter Milan, we played this formation. You need time and you need players for this system."

Robbie Keane's future was extensively debated yesterday. However, Trapattoni, who admitted on Tuesday that his skipper's lack of sharpness was a problem, has no intention of dropping a player with Keane's know-how.

He compared him to a car with 200,000km on the clock, who may be short of his initial speed but has a lot to offer in other departments. "We need his experience," stressed Trapattoni, pointing out that it was a rare off night for Keane in the context of his displays over the past two years, adding: "With more games, he can be better."

Russia sit on top of Group B after wins in Dublin and Skopje, with a penalty miss from Macedonia in the latter encounter letting Dick Advocaat's side off the hook. They are in a strong position now, and play four out of their remaining six games in Moscow.

Nevertheless, while acknowledging their quality, Trapattoni is not prepared to give up on the possibility of topping the group. He points out that Russia's next game -- in Armenia in March -- is a potential banana skin.

"Armenia can also beat Russia," he said. "When we went 1-0 up in Armenia, I hoped that the game finished quickly because they are very dangerous and fast, with a good mentality."

The reality, however, is that unless Russia slip up in their two meetings with the Armenians, Ireland will need six points from the visit of Slovakia and the trip to Moscow next September if they are to maintain genuine ambitions of automatic qualification.

Once more, the play-off trail beckons.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport