Friday 19 January 2018

Steven Reid: Big opportunity for McClean to stake claim in Big Apple

James McClean. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE
James McClean. Picture: Brian Lawless / SPORTSFILE

IT may seem strange to supporters that most of the senior players have been given permission to skip tomorrow's friendly in New York, but the game's timing makes it inevitable.

Sure, it's an international match against Spain – world and European champions – in a fantastic city. I'm sure the boys who've travelled will be really up for it and take in some of the sights afterwards. And I imagine a couple of stragglers will stay on for a few more days.

But I can understand why Giovanni Trapattoni gave a number of players permission to give it a miss after the end of a long campaign. When you've got an international in the second week of June, the reality is that pre-season may only be three weeks away and for the boys with family commitments – who spend a lot of nights on the road during the season – there's always pressure to take some time away from the game and just relax. Their clubs would be pushing for that, too.

On top of that, there are a few weddings this week. I know people may be a bit confused about why lads scheduled them for now, but there is a very small window if you're an international footballer. I got married in September two years ago – during the international break – so the manager could afford to give me a couple of days off.

But it was a small, family affair. For the lads who want to have a proper bash – and who probably have a lot of pals in the game – they have to look at June and, with no competitive games on the list, they would have arranged their big day for later this week, long before the Spain fixture was finalised.

Trapattoni could have got Shane Long and Aiden McGeady to travel, but he knows what they can do at this stage anyway; it gives others a chance to do something with this window.

There are quite a few boys who've been away for a couple of weeks and have barely kicked a ball and I'm sure they are feeling frustrated. They'll be questioning the worth of being there and I would hope that the management have it in their minds to give them a good slice of the action tomorrow night.

With a squad of 19 and six subs permitted, almost everybody will get a run-out. These end-of-season games can be hard going sometimes; if they are low-key then it can be hard for lads to really tune in. But taking on a world-class team in a great venue – the Yankee Stadium – should be enough to ensure that we see a full-blooded performance, similar to the commitment we saw at Wembley.

With Mcgeady absent, it's another opportunity for James McClean to stake a claim for inclusion come September. He has a massive season coming up at Sunderland, with Paolo Di Canio's new approach and unique methods well documented. He had a tough second year and I know what it's like because I went through it myself at Millwall; you have to refocus when the surprise element is gone and other players know your strengths and weaknesses.

I was quite impressed with Aiden on Friday. He was one of the stand-out performers and it will be very hard for James to dislodge him, but rubbing shoulders with this kind of opponent should stand to him either way.

I heard David Forde say the other day that nothing would stop him from going to New York and I can understand why. After breaking into the picture so late in his career, he won't be letting any opportunities pass him by. He's really impressed me, in terms of how he's adapting to his new responsibility. His performance against England was fantastic. There were one or two concerns about his handling and kicking in his earlier games, but it was first class at Wembley.

He had nothing to do on Friday, but he'll be busier tomorrow. As much as we'd like to see a bit of experimentation against Spain, the quality of the opposition is going to dictate the game. Spain have such superior technical players that the priority has to be keeping a decent shape and producing a strong defensive performance.

We'll be torn apart if we approach the game any differently and, having built up reasonable momentum this year, the last thing that Trapattoni needs is another thrashing to take the gloss off going into the summer. Hopefully, the lads who've been stewing away in the background until now can seize the opportunity to make their point.

Irish Independent

Promoted Links

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport