Noel King has just taken over as interim manager for the Rep Ireland senior side. Coming on the back of recalls for Anthony Stokes, Kevin Doyle and Andy Reid, here is my proposed starting XI for the final two qualifying matches.
Noel King’s Potential Starting XI v Germany
1.Goalkeeper Keiran Westwood: David Forde hasn’t done a lot wrong but at 34 in December he’s entering the twilight of his career and Westwood just edges this for me. He’s getting game time at Sunderland after a lot of time spent bench warming so this is a make or break season for the former Carlisle man.
2. Right back Seamus Coleman: The Everton man has been one of a few solid performers so is a common sense choice to continue in right back. His versatility and ability to get forward is something we’ll need against the Germans.
3. Left Back Marc Wilson: The Stoke player didn’t have his greatest moment against Austria but when you look at the current Irish side, besides Greg Cunningham there’s no alternative so he just about shades it.
4. Centre Back Ciaran Clark: With Dunne and O’Shea missing and Clark getting more games at Villa recently the young defender faces a big opportunity. The real question is who to parachute in to play alongside him.
5. Centre Back Alex Pearce: Noel King must scrape through the bottom of the proverbial barrel for defensive choices and that leaves Pearce, O’Dea and McShane vying for this position. Pearce edges it as he’s a young centre half who’s have a solid season after staying with Reading. St Ledger is carrying a knock (sadly Pearce, never made the 26 man squad).
6.Centre Mid James McCarthy: McCarthy’s latest performances have been poor by his standards but again a lot of that has been down to the manager’s choice of long ball tactics. King will have to look to get the best out of a truly talented player.
7. Centre Mid Wes Hoolahan: at 31 he’s not a long term successor but he definitely warrants a chance. His style of play (although he’s out of the Norwich side) could suit both of these games as he’s a player who likes to set the tempo of a game and get on the ball. It’s a player that would have more than suited Trapp’s style of play but who was inexplicably dropped.
8. Right Mid Aiden McGeady: The winger is often derided, yet he’s also offered us some wonderful skill. He still needs to find that final touch to show he’s matured.
9. Left Mid James McLean: With the retirement of Duff and the disappearance of Hunt and Lawrence, the wide positions have never been more open. McLean with his strength and passion gets the nod. Pilkington is only just missing this slot.
10. Centre Forward Anthony Stokes: Dropping Keane would be a controversial move and playing Stokes possibly even more. But Stokes will line out against Barcelona on Tuesday night while Keane is playing sub-standard football. Doyle if he was in the championship would get the nod from me but at struggling League One Wolves I can’t justify it.
11. Centre Forward Shane Long: Long is possibly one of Ireland’s most engimatic talents. Almost sold by West Brom to Hull recently only to be offered a new contract. He’s another player who needs a good end to this campaign. He gets my nod as he’s just got so much raw potential.
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