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Dublin: 2 °C Friday 15 November, 2019
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King grasps opportunity to leave his mark on Ireland squad

With little to play for in the remaining two World Cup qualifiers, the new caretaker manager will attempt to make the most of his short time in charge.

King takes questions in Abbottstown yesterday.
King takes questions in Abbottstown yesterday.
Image: INPHO/James Combie

SO IT’S OUT with the old and in with the, erm, old for Ireland.

With Trap and Tardelli waving arrivederci to the intenational set-up and the FAI not naming Martin O’Neill in his place as had been expected, short term replacement Noel King enjoyed his first real day in the hotseat yesterday.

There had been talk that the slate would be wiped clean to give the new man (whoever he turns out to be) the largest possible pool to choose from.

A combination of Trap’s old school style of man-management, his decision to let a couple of former regulars fall by the wayside and a reluctance to pick Anthony Stokes meant the squad announcement for this month’s double header with Germany and Kazakhstan offered the interim boss the chance to reintroduce some familiar faces to the group.

Before he entered the room, the 26-strong list was distributed around and a quick scan down through it revealed returns for Messrs Reid, Gibson, Doyle and Stokes. Darren O’Dea, Conor Sammon and Andy Keogh, all loyal foot soldiers of Trap’s, were among the casualties.

It came as little surprise that Stephen Ireland’s name was nowhere to be seen but we would later be told that King had offered an olive branch and, although he is concentrating on regaining top form at club level, the enigmatic Corkman does wish to add to his six senior caps by donning the green jersey again sometime soon.

With over 40 years’ experience in Irish football, King is clearly well-respected in the game and has managed to make more friends than enemies — evident from the jovial atmosphere in which he was quizzed by journalists whom he would have previously dealt with during roles in the League of Ireland and as women’s and, more recently, U21s boss.

There were a couple of jokes thrown about including one suggesting a possible comeback for Reid’s infamous guitar. When asked if the Nottingham Forest player would be allowed play a song, King responded by insisting that he can strum away to his heart’s content if they earn a historic win in Cologne in two weeks’ time. .

He seems determined to enjoy the brief stint in charge and more than once expressed an intent to gain a maximum six points from the final two qualifiers. That may sound more than a little ambitious when you recall the 6-1 drubbing we received in Dublin last October and consider the team is without our two most experienced defenders in the suspended John O’Shea and Richard Dunne.

That said, you do hope that King decides to throw caution to the wind and resists the temptation to line out ultra-defensively. Okay, you’ve got to pick a balanced side but the onus should be to get at the home team.

With the finals in Brazil beyond us and no fixtures scheduled in the next five months, fans are hoping to see encouraging signs that irrespective of who is named the permanent manager, the squad will possess  a nucleus of hungry, young players as the foundation to build their challenge for a spot at Euro 2016 around.

News breaking last night that Robbie Brady won’t be available due to a need for surgery on a hernia problem is a blow. The Hull City winger has impressed in his first spell as a Premier League player – scoring four goals in the process.

Everton trio James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and the returning Gibson as well as the likes of Ciaran Clark, Anthony Pilkington and Shane Long are all fit to play however, and warrant starting berths.

King will have managed a few of them at U21 level and, although he might be a few years older than that lot, there was also an interesting line about Wes Hoolahan at yesterday’s press briefing.

Having sang the former Shelbourne star’s praises for successfully making the transition from League of Ireland to the lower divisions in England and eventually onto the top flight, King perhaps hinted at giving the Norwich schemer a bigger part than his predecessor had.

“He gives you different options that we haven’t got,” King said. “I’ll maybe play different to previous people and I think he can slot in and do a decent job. I’m a big fan of Wes.”

Whoever he does go with, it promises to be an interesting couple of weeks.

Total Recall: Andy Reid welcomed back to international fold after five-year absence
Robbie Brady withdraws from Ireland squad to undergo groin operation

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Ben Blake

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