HARRY ARTER KNOWS the value of hard work. When football dealt him a cruel hand, it was determination and application that helped him to climb the mountain back to where he is now.
He hasn’t quite reached the top, but he’s not far off it either — a key man for Championship leaders Bournemouth as they chase promotion to the top flight for the first time in club history, and now a part of the senior Ireland squad for the first time after catching Martin O’Neill’s eye.
Arter has pulled on the green jersey before, back in 2006 and 2007 when he played for Ireland at U17 and U19 level.
His was a bright future but very quickly it all went wrong. Shortly after making his debut for Alan Pardew at Charlton, Arter was diagnosed with chronic tendonitis in his Achilles. A few months later, he ruptured the tendon.
It took nearly a year of recovery to get it right again. By that time Pardew was gone, replaced by Phil Parkinson, and Arter’s future at the Valley was far less promising.
He rolled the dice and decided to leave, confident that if he could force his way back into first-team football, he’d be able to prove his ability. There were loan spells at non-league Staines Town and Welling United before eventually he signed for Woking.
“I was playing non-league and international is far from that,” he said on Tuesday after his first training session in Malahide.
“I was only a young boy then and my main focus then was just to work as hard as I can and get back to a level that I thought I could play at.”
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe agreed. He brought Arter, then 20, to the League One side in the summer of 2010 and while it hasn’t always been plain sailing for the last five years, he has practically been an ever-present this season.
“I’m confident in my own ability and this is the level I feel I’m capable of playing at,” he continued.
I feel the key to that is just working hard and not resting on your laurels. From the age of 19 up until now, I haven’t done that.
“I’m going to continue to work hard and hopefully reach the top.”
Bournemouth has been a regular stop on O’Neill’s English itinerary this season but not just because of Arter’s form — O’Neill joked yesterday that he enjoys watching Howe’s side so much that he even went to see them when Arter was suspended.
So what words did the manager have for him as he settled in for his first day?
“Just be yourself really, that’s all you can do.
“I’ve been picked for a reason. I’ve been picked because the manager’s been impressed with the way I play.
If I come here any different, or not confident, I won’t show the best of my ability. He just said be yourself and that’s what he picked me for.
Born in London, but eligible for Ireland through his grandmother from Sligo, Arter knows it will be a proud moment if he features against Poland.
He’s already had a few quiet words with a man who knows a bit about the international game. Former England midfielder Scott Parker is his brother-in-law.
“He’s proud as well. It’s nice to fall back on him as well because he’s been in international camps before and it’s my first time.
All the family are proud.
His toughest test this week might not be forcing his way into O’Neill’s plans for Sunday, but surviving the traditional squad initiation at which all new call-ups are made to stand on a chair and sing.
“I’m going to have to think of something to try and learn the words,” he said with a worrying lack of preparedness. “I’ll probably just put my headphones on and close my eyes and belt it out.”
– First published 07.00