Sport Soccer

Monday 23 October 2017

Trapattoni admits Given in danger of getting axe

John Fallon

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI has insisted he'd have no qualms about dropping Shay Given for the Republic of Ireland's opening World Cup qualifier in Kazakhstan on September 7.

Given's status as first-choice goalkeeper in the Irish set-up faces its biggest threat since he assumed the role in 1996, with Trapattoni suggesting the Donegal man is no longer guaranteed his place.

Although the 125-times-capped goalkeeper hinted of retiring from international football following the disappointment of Euro 2012, he has yet to do so, but the Irish boss has taken the liberty of omitting him for the warm-up game against Serbia on August 15.

Along with other senior players Robbie Keane, Damien Duff and Richard Dunne, Given was informed by Trapattoni by text message that he wouldn't be needed for the friendly in Belgrade. The Italian admitted he has yet to receive a reply to the message he sent Given over a fortnight ago.

The silence from Given, as Trapattoni prepares to go with Sunderland's Keiren Westwood as goalkeeper for the friendly, adds another layer of intrigue to the development.

"I sent him (Given) an SMS 15 days ago and told him my intention," said Trapattoni. "In this friendly game, I want to see Westwood and try the other goalkeepers. We could start Westwood (against Kazakhstan) and Given could help Westwood . . . why not?"

Given, who new Villa boss Paul Lambert has claimed faces a challenge from Brad Guzan to be first choice at the club, will unlikely be receptive to the mentoring role Trapattoni has planned for him.

Whether it was Given's disappointing displays at the European Championships, where he shipped nine goals in three games, or the emergence of Westwood, it seems Trapattoni is beginning to ponder a change between the sticks.

It isn't just the goalkeeper's spot that is under threat, as the manager admits the ageing spine of his team -- six of Ireland's first-choice team in Poland were 30 or over -- gives him reason to inject new blood for the campaign ahead.

"It's the process of the life," added Trapattoni. "There is the moment obviously we couldn't change all the team but some. We can change slowly, slowly. This game against Serbia is a good opportunity to see if the new players are ready for Kazakhstan.

"It is an optimal situation for me because the older players can help the young, even if they don't play. I can say clear to them, 'maybe you not start the game' and it's okay if they say, 'mister I wish to then stay at home'. They are not egoists."

One player Trapattoni did receive an acknowledgement from was Stephen Hunt, cast aside to allow a recall after a year in the wilderness for Keith Treacy.

Hunt didn't play a single minute at the Euros and was understood to be seething, but his manager was adamant the Wolves man has a future for Ireland. In light of Given's snub, Trap went so far as to present his telephone to media displaying Hunt's response to the squad changes. 'No problem' read the message from Hunt, though it's uncertain if the winger has been overtaken long term by both Treacy and the recalled Andy Keogh in the pecking order.

Considering another winger, Manchester United's rookie Robbie Brady, was in line for a call-up only for duty with the Ireland under 21 squad to take precedence, the portents for 30-year-old Hunt are less than encouraging.

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