Trap sure numbers will add up this time
AFTER a similar length end-of-season gathering two years ago was dominated by withdrawals and misunderstandings, Giovanni Trapattoni is confident there will be no repeat ahead of this summer's four internationals.
The Ireland manager revealed his provisional 28-man party in Leitrim and, while there are fitness doubts hanging over a number of those included, the Italian believes that genuine injuries will be the only reason offered by any unexpected absentees.
Back in 2011, the Carling Nations Cup tie with Northern Ireland was overshadowed by the apparent disappearance of Marc Wilson, a dispute over James McCarthy's unavailability, and the suggestion that Anthony Stokes had cited fatigue as his reason for pulling out.
An irate Trapattoni made his views clear on that occasion, and feels that his players now appreciate the importance of being available for a 17-day meet-up at the end of a long campaign.
The 74-year-old thinks that the high-profile friendlies with England in Wembley (May 29) and all-conquering Spain in New York (June 11) should be attractive to any professional, while the World Cup qualifier with Faroe Islands (June 7) is extremely important from a goal difference perspective.
The Dublin clash with Georgia (June 2) is unquestionably the ugly duckling of the quartet, but Trapattoni has indicated that is the stage where the younger members of his party, such as Derby's Jeff Hendrick, may gain further education. "England and Spain are important friendlies," stressed Trapattoni, speaking in the chamber of the Leitrim County Council in Carrick-on-Shannon yesterday.
"I would go without shoes to play the game against England. I would swim the ocean to play against Spain. We need this experience, it's heavy, but it's experience. We can divide the squad, give players 45 minutes, make six subs, and recover energy."
The only exception to his rules around this session is the uncapped Anthony Pilkington, who is getting married on May 31 and is likely to be restricted to involvement in the England match provided a slight knee problem clears up.
With a honeymoon scheduled, Trapattoni looks likely to have to prepare for the other three games without the attacking Norwich midfielder, although he remains bemused by personal events getting in the way of football, once again referencing the time that he lined out in a cup semi-final in the days after he got married.
"There is a problem with the wife," he said, with a smile, indicating that he would talk to Pilkington about the Faroes game, albeit with hope rather than expectation.
Shane Long and McCarthy are suspended for that match and will likely be excused from hanging around and travelling to New York, although that is pending discussions with the highly regarded duo.
Trapattoni was impressed with McCarthy's FA Cup winning display for Wigan on Saturday, while repeating his belief that the 22-year-old is too shy, claiming that he could match Steven Gerrard and Michael Carrick if he developed his personality.
Robbie Keane has never struggled in that department, yet he may need to use his powers of persuasion to allow LA Galaxy to release him for the Wembley date.
Keane, who has suffered with an ankle issue in recent weeks, has competitive club commitments with the MLS champions on May 26 and June 2 and they are only obliged to release him for the Faroes tie.
Galaxy do not want the Irish skipper involved in friendly matches, even though the prestige of the England game marks it out as something different. "He will have to ask his club," said Trapattoni.
As it stands, the Irish boss is preparing to deploy a 4-5-1 formation against Roy Hodgson's charges, responding 'Yes' when it was queried if such a formation would include Wes Hoolahan in an advanced midfield role.
He wants Pilkington to add a goalscoring dimension to his side from wide areas, repeating that other departments have to begin chipping in to help ease the pressure on his strikers.
Kevin Doyle used to carry that burden, but has fallen down the manager's pecking order and won't be able to improve that situation due to surgery on an Achilles which rules him out of proceedings.
A foot complaint prevents Ciaran Clark from resuming his partnership with John O'Shea in central defence, with Derby's Richard Keogh and Crystal Palace man Damien Delaney called in ahead of Alex Pearce.
Richard Dunne remains prominent in Trapattoni's thoughts, but a season on the sidelines has placed his club future in serious jeopardy.
If Aston Villa are agreeable, the Dubliner could join the group for some light training, but involving him in a match is considered a risk too far, especially when there is a strong chance he will be looking for new employment when his contract expires on June 30.
"If he is playing again, we don't forget Richard," said Trapattoni, who insisted that the Tallaght man is still a part of his World Cup plans. "We remember he kicked the ball off the line in Moscow. His situation now is fitness and games. It's a shorter-term problem."
Stephen Ward was part of the Euros effort, yet he is out of the frame now along with his Wolves colleague Stephen Hunt. Contributing to Hull's promotion to the Premier League has failed to help Stephen Quinn's prospects, while Newcastle netminder Rob Elliot will also have to wait despite being watched by goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly.
New York Red Bulls 'keeper Ryan Meara was also given a mention and may be asked to join up with the squad in the Big Apple if David Forde, Keiren Westwood or Darren Randolph suffer a setback.
The bottom line, however, is that the Ireland manager wants to avoid a situation where the Stateside trip is preceded by a frantic ringaround in order to make up the numbers. This time around, he will be approving the sick-notes.