Thursday 23 November 2017

St Ledger keen to return in Germany

Sean St Ledger has struggled with injury this season
Sean St Ledger has struggled with injury this season

Sean St Ledger is targeting a first start since the opening week of the season in Ireland's daunting World Cup qualifier in Germany.

The 28-year-old Leicester defender has not kicked a ball for his club since the Capital One Cup win at Wycombe on August 6, his second and final appearance for the campaign to date, because of a knee injury and manager Nigel Pearson's reluctance to rush him back.

However, he is vying for a chance to line up against the likes of Thomas Muller, Mesut Ozil and Tony Kroos in Cologne on Friday night as Ireland attempt to gain revenge for their 6-1 mauling by the Germans in Dublin last October as Group C approaches its climax.

St Ledger, who has 36 senior caps to his name, could get his opportunity because senior men Richard Dunne and John O'Shea are both suspended, and he insists he is ready if called upon by interim boss Noel King.

He said: "I'm as ready as I'll ever be. It's probably not an ideal situation with not having played, but sometimes things can't always be perfect.

"I'm generally quite fit, so hopefully that will stand me in good stead. I have been back training for a few weeks now.

"Obviously I have not played and I am probably fortunate that I am in the squad with the suspensions, so it's down to me this week to work hard, get my head down and try to force my way into the starting XI."

Dunne and O'Shea will be available for Ireland's final qualifier against Kazakhstan at the Aviva Stadium next Tuesday evening, but in their absence, St Ledger and Aston Villa's Ciaran Clark are the leading candidates to take over in central defence in Germany, although Damien Delaney and Stephen Kelly have both played there in the past.

But having made his competitive senior debut in a 1-1 World Cup qualifying draw in Bulgaria under Giovanni Trapattoni in June 2009, that would not faze the former Peterborough and Preston man.

St Ledger said: "These are the games you want to play in as footballers, against the best players and against the best teams and test yourself.

"When you get results against these teams, it's a great feeling. We are not going out there on Friday just to be losers or to come second. We are going out there to win the game.

"Everyone has come in this week and it's a clean slate for everyone. I'm sure the manager has ideas and it's down to each individual to go out there and prove to him that you want to be in the starting XI.

"Hopefully he will know I have played quite a few times now and that will stand me in good stead, but we will have to see."

King put his players through their paces in Malahide for the first time on Monday, and stamped his own style on the session as he attempted to get his message across.

But as the search for a permanent successor to 74-year-old Trapattoni continued, St Ledger spared a thought for the man who gave him his big chance to step on to the international stage.

He said: "Sometimes football fans think the grass is greener on the other side and sometimes, it's not.

"If you look back at it, we qualified for the Euros and we hadn't in such a long time; we nearly got to the World Cup in South Africa.

"On this stage, it's about winning football games, and that's what we did.

"Obviously, there were low points - the Euros, not winning - but then to get there was great. It was great for the country, it was great for the fans.

"But that's gone now, it's a new era. We are going to have a new manager and it's important for every one of us as players.

"The new manager will probably be watching the game on Friday, he must have an inkling that he's interested in the job, so it's up to us to go out there and show what we can do because we all want to be on this stage playing against the likes of Germany and playing in major tournaments."

Press Association

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