Saturday 16 December 2017

Steven Reid: Trapattoni would be stupid to reject Shay Given’s Irish return

Shay Given is still the best keeper Ireland have
Shay Given is still the best keeper Ireland have
Steven Reid

Steven Reid

IF Shay Given is willing to come out of international retirement then Giovanni Trapattoni would be stupid not to take up the opportunity.

That's no disrespect to Keiren Westwood and David Forde, who are both decent 'keepers in their own right, but it appears that Trapattoni is torn between them.

There's a simple solution: Shay is still clearly the best we have and I'd bring him back in a heartbeat.

I can appreciate why the manager is leaning towards David now because he's playing regular first-team football for his club. With Simon Mignolet excelling, it's been very difficult for Keiren at Sunderland. A spell on the bench can have more impact on a 'keeper: you can become rusty very quickly.

Admittedly, Shay has been on the sidelines at Aston Villa, aside from a few outings in the cups, so it would be contradictory for Trapattoni to say that you need to play first-team football and then opt for Shay. But, for me, the positives outweigh the negatives.

I sat down to look at the squad for tonight's game the other day and the one thing that struck me was the lack of international experience. The manager is trying to devise a plan for going to Sweden next month, and with question marks over Richard Dunne's fitness, we could do with the presence that Shay brings.

I've shared a dressing-room with him many times and know what he offers. There will be times in Stockholm when the team is under pressure and the players out there need full confidence and belief in the man behind them.

I can understand why Shay wants to come back. First and foremost, I'm sure he misses the buzz of international football. I know I still do. But I had to make a decision to prolong my club career.


Shay did the same and now he's not playing for Villa, it's natural that he would want to make himself available.

It would be nice for him step back in and erase the memory of last summer's Euros. We could all see he had a disappointing tournament, and that the little injury problems he had beforehand were a factor in that.

I could sympathise with his struggles. At West Brom this season, I've made the mistake of chasing fitness and playing games when I'm not quite right.

From what I've seen this season, however, Shay looks in good shape now and that's why Trapattoni should gratefully accept his offer. If he views Keiren and David on the same level and doesn't know who his best option is, I think that qualifies as a reason to pick up the phone to Shay again and tell him the emergency has arrived.

Richard's ongoing groin problems concern me, particularly with a view to his Irish future. I've been in the situation he's in at the moment and I think he might have to make a decision about his international future in the summer, particularly if he is moving to a new club.

He has to ask himself if he can cope with the demands. It would be a major blow if he walked away.

We could do with something to cheer us up tonight then. The decision to start Shane Long pleases me, although I'm surprised that the manager has gone with Conor Sammon from the outset.

I thought he might go with his strongest team with a view to building momentum into the Swedish game, but he clearly wants to try a few things out.

I'd have opted for Wes Hoolahan behind Longy. He can create and score goals and give us a different dimension. One of Longy or Sammon is going to have to take the responsibility of supporting the midfield and there's a danger it might take away from their strengths.

I know Longy well, and for me he's best deployed as a real No 9, the target. You want him concentrated on running in behind and causing their defence problems.

I'm not sure the manager really knows what his best partnership is, and while I'd expect Robbie Keane to be an automatic choice next month, I hope this is the night where Longy makes his case to join him.

Anthony Pilkington's absence is a serious blow. He's good on either side and strong in the air, and while he's a completely different kind of player to Damien Duff, he strikes me as a guy that is capable of making a place in the team his own.

Robbie Brady and James McClean can put their names forward tonight, but unless they do something exceptional, I suspect the manager will stick with experience next month.

I just hope we can see something tonight which injects some confidence back into the side. There was a time when we used to be hard to beat at Lansdowne. After being thrashed by Germany and then losing again against Greece, the boys could do with getting the home form back on track.

Stockholm is shaping up as the big game of the group, but a good result there will count for nothing if we don't capitalise on it in Dublin. We need to make it a fortress again, starting from tonight

Irish Independent

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