REPUBLIC OF IRELAND boss Giovanni Trapattoni won’t wing it in Sweden by experimenting with Wes Hoolahan in an unfamiliar wide role.
With regular wide man Aiden McGeady ruled out of Trapattoni’s 23-man squad with a knee injury, the Italian must assess his midfield options ahead of Friday’s crucial World Cup qualifier in Stockholm.
Hoolahan will join the squad in Malahide tomorrow after playing and scoring in Norwich’s 1-1 draw at Sunderland, though his involvement this afternoon was cut short when he was substituted following goalkeeper Mark Bunn’s red card.
Pressure on Trapattoni intensified when the Dubliner played himself into contention with a brilliant cameo against Poland last month, showing a great touch and awareness to score his first international goal.
But Trap won’t be tempted to experiment with him on the wing, particularly in such a high-stakes game.
“Usually we put him in his natural position,” Trapattoni, who turned 74 today, explained. “He plays behind the striker, not on the left or right.”
We won’t start this way against Sweden [with Hoolahan wide]. It’s important to have balance in the positions. That is very, very important.
Hoolahan needs to play in his position. He’s good in his position.
Trapattoni also faces a selection headache in defence where the continued absence of Richard Dunne due to injury is denying him one of his first-choice centre-halves.
Sean St Ledger is available and in the squad, though he has only started two matches for Leicester since coming back from a five-month lay-off with a serious hamstring injury.
Following Seamus Coleman’s man-of-the-match performance for Everton yesterday, and with Ciaran Clark impressing at the heart of Aston Villa’s defence, Trapattoni may skip over St Ledger but the player insists he’s ready if needed on Friday.
“I spoke with him,” Trapattoni explained. “He’s ready.”
I was worried about his injury but I was in touch with him and he said to me, ‘I am fit and ready.’ I said to him to be careful because maybe we will need him in this game [against Sweden] because they have very quick strikers.
“We have good options. We have John O’Shea, also [Darren] O’Dea, but at this moment we have two or three days to evaluate him.
“Clarke is playing well. I have good options.”
O’Dea and regular captain Robbie Keane are due to fly in to camp tomorrow evening, while Trapattoni’s assistant Marco Tardelli and goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly are both expected to arrive tonight having both been ill in recent days.