Stokes makes big pitch for Ireland call-up
ANTHONY STOKES believes he has developed the consistency required to gain a recall to Giovanni Trapattoni's squad for next month's showdown with Estonia and has hit out at critics who have questioned his commitment to the Irish cause.
Trapattoni is in Dublin today to name his squad for the Euro 2012 play-off and the intrigue surrounds the striking department, with an injury to Shane Long, doubts around Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle's suspension for the first leg weakening the Italian's hand.
On the basis of the 72-year-old's previous squads, Stokes is vying for a place with Leon Best and Caleb Folan, but the Dubliner has been exiled since pulling out of the Carling Nations Cup in the summer.
That angered Trapattoni, who claimed that the striker said he was tired. Considering they already doubted the player's work rate, it did little for his standing. Stokes (below) is refusing to give up hope, though.
"Last year my form was a bit erratic, so maybe that had something to do with it," he said. "Hopefully this year I've been a bit more consistent, so I've got a better chance of a call-up.
"I'd love to get the call, I really would. I haven't spoken to anyone from the FAI, or Trapattoni. I was one of four people who didn't turn up for the Carling Nations Cup games, but I haven't been selected for a squad since. I think it got blown out of proportion, to be honest.
"I've played for Ireland from U-15 to the first team. I remember getting a call-up for the full team and played one or two games. Then the U-19 manager (Sean McCaffrey) asked me to go back and play for his side and I did it without any bother. So I don't think anyone can question my commitment to the country.
"I want to prove to Trapattoni that I'm worth a place in his squad, because his opinion is the only one I'm really bothered about."
It would mean a lot to Stokes to figure against Estonia, having been part of the travelling party in France back in 2009.
"I was there," he recalls. "I wasn't on the bench, but I was with the squad and I think we were very disappointed that night because we felt we were cheated. To be fair, we had chances to kill the game before that.
"I think a lot of people are expecting it to be one-sided against Estonia and that Ireland will fly through, but it's going to be tough."
Stokes' chances of being part of the journey this time around depend on Trap forming the opinion that the 23-year-old has turned over a new leaf.