Noel King gets chance to put stamp on Irish team
NOEL KING will today name his squad for Ireland's concluding World Cup double header with Germany and Kazakhstan.
In preparing for the meaningless encounters, the caretaker manager must decide what to do with Giovanni Trapattoni's template.
One school of thought is that King should go his own way and tear up the script completely. The other argues that – given he is only a stopgap option – it would be unwise for the Dubliner to rock the boat too much.
With John O'Shea and Richard Dunne suspended for the trip to Germany, a daunting challenge has stepped up a few levels of difficulty and, therefore, the Cologne leg could possibly end up being a damage-limitation exercise.
The Trapattoni post-mortem centred around the quality of player available and what a different manager could do with them. Indeed, the Italian suggested that he would be willing to fly back and watch if the next boss could do something drastically different with the options available to Ireland.
King will have to find the balance between change and continuity. Here are five things the interim gaffer.
Recall the exiles
Darron Gibson is definitely returning and welcoming Anthony Stokes back would also be a timely decision, given his recent form for Celtic. It appears that Stephen Ireland is content to stay in exile but including Andy Reid would certainly diversify the options available in the midfield department.
It would, of course, be impossible to fit them all into the same team, but the additions would increase the range of technically gifted performers in the squad and offer alternatives from the bench.
Move Marc Wilson
The Stoke man is lining out in central midfield for his club this term, sitting in front of the back four and keeping Glenn Whelan out of the team in the process. He could also offer Ireland a different dimension in that department if it was deemed too soon for Gibson to come straight back into the side.
While it would leave a vacancy at left-full, Joey O'Brien often plays there for West Ham and is an option. Wilson, a versatile performer, could also be a central defensive option in the absence of Dunne/O'Shea.
Change the formation
This seems like an obvious one on paper, particularly for the German task, and considering King has favoured a 4-3-3/4-5-1 formation then it should be a no-brainer.
But it complicates the position of Robbie Keane who is still Ireland's most potent striker, but not exactly suited to the specifics of that system.
Dropping Keane for the away leg would be a huge call, especially with the shortage of experience for Germany. It'd be one hell of a way to leave an impression though.
Answer the Hoolahan question
Trapattoni's reluctance to use Hoolahan has increased the expectation around the Norwich playmaker.
Sceptics point out that Chris Hughton has barely utilised the Dubliner this season, so he is hardly tearing up trees in the Premier League; then again Hughton has also been criticised for excluding the ex-Shels man.
The easiest way to satisfy curiosity is to give Hoolahan the licence to operate in his favoured role between midfield and attack against decent opposition and measure the impact.
Put faith in Randolph
David Forde has done nothing wrong in his time between the sticks and Keiren Westwood is lining out regularly at Sunderland.
However, Darren Randolph has been around the squad for a while without seeing much action and has made an excellent impression at Birmingham following his summer switch from Motherwell.
Both Forde and Westwood have staked their claim to permanently take over from Shay Given. Perhaps Randolph, at 26 the youngest of the trio, is due a turn to make his case.