Tuesday 21 January 2020

Prodigal son Andy Reid set for return

Playmaker tipped to start as King looks to enhance attacking options

Republic of Ireland interim manager Noel King and Andy Reid
Republic of Ireland interim manager Noel King and Andy Reid
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

WHEN the FAI went down the caretaker route for tomorrow night's concluding Group C tie with Kazakhstan, they knew they ran the risk of an empty stadium for the dead rubber.

There are seeding implications for Euro 2016, but those permutations alone are not going to stir punters from their living rooms to pay for a trip to Lansdowne Road.

In the new stadium, it's always been a struggle to attract fans for showdowns with the lesser lights and Kazakhstan, ranked 132nd in the world, come firmly into that category.

However, it is the first home game since the departure of Giovanni Trapattoni and if the FAI believe that his style of play turned people away then perhaps some of the disaffected will come back out of curiosity.

Certainly, Noel King has given a strong indication that his team will set out with the intention of giving value for money.

"There are no guarantees in football and I think it's important to say that," he stressed yesterday.

"But we are going to try to play whenever we can. Every opportunity we get in the game, we will try to play. Every opportunity we had the other night, we tried to play.

"The game is always dictated by who has the ball. If we have the ball and can keep it better than we did against Germany then you'd hope our possession would be up.

"And the more possession you have – in theory – the more opportunities we have to score," King added.

"If the game pans out that way then we should have more attacking options."

He will start with the same 4-2-3-1 formation as Cologne, believing it is the way forward, but alterations in personnel are anticipated so that his team can take the initiative.

ROBBIE KEANE

The skipper would have relished the opportunities that Anthony Stokes squandered on Friday. He trained yesterday afternoon, a surprise considering King said in the morning that he expected the skipper to sit things out again.

"Dr Alan Byrne has been working with him non-stop. He was just short for the first game so hopefully he'll be okay."

There was a feeling that a lone central striking role would not suit Keane's strengths as he generally thrives off the presence of a physical partner but Stokes found some gaps on Friday without being an aerial target.

Kevin Doyle provided an aerial outlet on the left flank and could be deployed again in a more advanced role although if Ireland keep possession better than they did against the Germans, Keane can benefit in other ways. He's a strong bet to add to his tally of 60 international goals if he can absolutely prove his fitness today.

TWO HOLDING PLAYERS

Marc Wilson and Darron Gibson primarily function as holding players for their employers and King believed they suited the task at hand in Germany.

But when it comes to adopting a positive approach, a possible switch is sacrificing one of the pair and dropping James McCarthy back into a deeper role with a view to building from there.

King acknowledged the possibility.

"You are probably thinking who else might go in there if needed," he said.

An obvious solution would be to move Wilson to left-back in place of Stephen Kelly. Another candidate is Glenn Whelan as it's safe to assume he will be moved from his right-sided midfield berth in Cologne.

ANDY REID

There are strong indications that the Nottingham Forest man will be handed a start tomorrow, a development which would be bad news for Wes Hoolahan as it seems that King thinks he could not accommodate the talented Dublin duo in the same side.

"It would be very difficult, wouldn't it?" he said. "That's the dilemma."

Reid could simply come in for Whelan on the right side in a straight swap. Alternatively, if McCarthy dropped back to be a sitter next to either one of Gibson, or Whelan, then Reid could bridge the six-year gap from his last cap as an attacking central midfielder, the No 10 role that Hoolahan also covets.

King was slow to turn to his substitutes on Friday but a job-share between Reid and Hoolahan is probably the best that fans of both players can hope for judging by the interim manager's observations yesterday.

THE CENTRE-HALVES

King claims that picking the Kazakhstan XI has given him a bigger headache than the German ruminations because some of those who came in presented a strong case for another turn.

He praised the 'outstanding' Ciaran Clark and also Damien Delaney for their showings at centre-half, but it would be a surprise if he decided against bringing Richard Dunne and John O'Shea straight back into the heart of the back four.

Their experience can provide leadership from the back which can drive the team forward at the right times.

There were periods on Friday when the defensive line fell too deep – understandable to an extent when Germany owned the ball – but the rearguard was caught out when they were out of sync for Andre Schurrle's goal.

With Dunne or O'Shea calling the shots, they might have avoided that error.

THE COLEMAN FACTOR

Friday's stand-in skipper will be selected at right-back again but we should see more of him if Ireland are applying the pressure.

It was only in the final 25 minutes that the Everton man really managed to escape defensive duties and cause serious trouble for Joachim Loew's left side. King felt that the Donegal lad was an inspirational presence at that stage, thus justifying the decision to award him the armband. "He was given free licence when the opportunity was right to go forward," said King.

There should be greater scope to do so against Kazakhstan. King believes that Coleman has the ability to progress to the next level when he improves his effectiveness cutting inside.

"He has improved continuously," he explained. "And he has now gone up the right for a while. If you stop him going up the right then he comes in on the left and causes trouble. If he continues to develop coming in the left then he could become one of the great full-backs."

Philipp Lahm showed the 25-year-old the benchmark on Friday by effectively functioning as an extra winger, a luxury borne from his colleagues' hogging the ball. Ireland have to assume a level of control tomorrow which allows Coleman the same freedom.

Irish Independent

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