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Trap to give 'beautiful' Hoolahan chance to shine against Greece

WES HOOLAHAN will play a 'minimum of one half' when he wins his second cap for Ireland on the 10-year anniversary of his first call-up.

The Norwich midfielder has finally been rewarded for his impressive performances in the Premier League, and Giovanni Trapattoni is curious to find out if the Dubliner can strike up a rapport with James McCarthy in a three-man midfield.

Fittingly, Greece provide the opposition. Back in November 2002, Hoolahan was brought to Athens by Irish caretaker manager Don Givens, although he was an unused substitute for that friendly international.

The playmaker made his only senior Irish appearance in May 2008, as a late sub in the exhibition with Colombia at Craven Cottage. He will be given much longer to shine on this occasion, with Trapattoni defending his previous exclusion of the 30-year-old by stressing that he didn't fit into his preferred system.

"We know he is beautiful but he play in this position behind the striker," said the Italian. "Our system, until now, we tried this in the past with James (McClean v Serbia). It was not positive. And in the past, we have needed two strikers in our system.

"I have seen Hoolahan before, I know him very well. I have tried also to play one striker and we can see what he can do. Sure, he can play. We have to decide if it's the first half or the second half, but he will play a minimum of one half."

The ex-Shelbourne star has impressed for Norwich in a roving role behind lone attacker Grant Holt.

With Robbie Keane excused from the Greece game -- just like he was from the Serbia and Oman friendlies -- it is likely that Hoolahan will be asked to support either Kevin Doyle or Jon Walters.

However, Trapattoni is also intrigued by the possibility of having both Hoolahan (left) and McCarthy on the pitch at the same time, given their technical confidence.

He has placed pressure on the shoulders of Hoolahan, indicating that he will need to prove that he can transfer his talent to international level.

"Only on the pitch, he can answer us," he said. "He has grown over three years but now with, for example, McCarthy, I wish to see them on the pitch together.

"You'll only find out on the pitch if someone at international level is going to be up to it, or not up to it. If I don't try this, then I won't find out the answer.

"I will use him behind the striker. I couldn't say to him, go in midfield. If I call him, we go with one striker, like he does at Norwich."

Trapattoni is planning another trip to Carrow Road this weekend, where watching Hoolahan won't be the only item on his agenda.

Management also need to clarify the intentions of versatile English-born midfielder Anthony Pilkington, who lined out for Ireland U21 level but is humming and hawing about whether he wants to commit his future to the cause.

"I have sent an SMS," said Trapattoni, "But with Pilkington at this moment, we need to ask 'Do you want to stay?' Because we need to make the passport.

"Last time, we had this with (James) McClean. We have this doubt, this situation. These players are good quality. Until now, he must answer us."

The 24-year-old shone last season for the Canaries, but has been in and out of the side under Chris Hughton this term.

He featured in the victory over Arsenal, with Trapattoni in attendance, and the 73-year-old is keen to make progress with regard to the Blackburn native.

Stoke are the visitors to Norwich on Saturday, with the Irish boss hoping for better luck after watching Marc Wilson break his fibula in action for Tony Pulis' side last weekend.

Glenn Whelan is part of the Ireland squad to face Greece and is nearing a return to fitness after sustaining a hamstring injury on the weekend before the double-header with Germany and the Faroe Islands.

Irish Independent