Much – quite rightly – has been made of the prospects of Canary skipper Grant Holt and keeper John Ruddy figuring large in Roy Hodgson’s Euro2012 thoughts.
Less, however, has been made of the Republic Of Ireland’s plans. Until that is, this week.
Yesterday, the Republic’s boss – the Italian Giovanni Trapattoni – announced his 23-man squad. And the five players he has placed on ‘stand-by’.
I re-print it here only for the sake of pondering what, exactly, either Wes Hoolahan or Anthony Pilkington have to do to be included amongst such company.
Republic of Ireland squad for Euro 2012: Shay Given (Aston Villa), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall); John O’Shea (Sunderland), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Stephen Ward (Wolves), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Sean St Ledger (Leicester), Darren O’Dea (Leeds), Kevin Foley (Wolves); Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Keith Andrews (West Brom), Keith Fahey (Birmingham), Darron Gibson (Everton), Damien Duff (Fulham), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Stephen Hunt (Wolves), James McClean (Sunderland); Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolves), Shane Long, Simon Cox (both West Brom), Jon Walters (Stoke).
Stand-by: Darren Randolph (Motherwell), Paul McShane (Crystal Palace), Paul Green (Unattached), Seamus Coleman (Everton), Andy Keogh (Millwall).
Naturally everyone in this neck of the woods is biased. Hoolahan has played a huge part in the rise and rise of Paul Lambert’s Canaries; the Dubliner was centre stage again at The Emirates this weekend when he grabbed Norwich’s opening goal in their thrilling 3-3 draw with the Champions League hopefuls.
It was the 29-year-old’s fourth Premier League goal; not earth-shattering, granted. But then he hasn’t started every game. And nor is his game always about goals. Ask Holt about the number of assists he would credit to his little pal Wessi.
OK, I can’t judge Hoolahan over and above Aiden McGeady at Spartak Moscow. Nor, indeed, Keith Fahey at Birmingham – other than to gently point to the fact that Fahey has been playing Championship football this year.
And will be doing so again next year if they fail to over-turn Blackpool’s 1-0 advantage in their Play-Off semis at St Andrew’s tomorrow night.
But, OK… Maybe there is better, more creative, more imaginative players out there. Maybe.
One would, however, expect that in the full heat of a Ukrainian summer, the games will not be conducted at the level of physical intensity of The Championship; they will be slower; offer players more time on the ball; more space into which to thread a pass…
But if Hoolahan’s non-involvement leaves one or two observers non-plussed, the decision to ignore the claims of Pilkington to represent the land of his grand-mother’s birth look even more bizarre.
Eight goals in your first season in the English Premier League – again, from a player who has been far from guaranteed a first-team start – is a phenomenal return for a young man of just 23 years.
It also ensures that he is the highest-scoring ‘Irishman’ at Trapattoni’s disposal this summer given that he has one more goal than Shane Long at West Brom.
For the record, team-mate Simon Cox hasn’t a single Premier League goal to his name; over at relegated Wolves, Kevin Doyle has four.
Nor – when it comes to the Republic – does the ‘big club’ argument work; the one that has Danny Welbeck ahead of a Holt on the grounds of his Old Trafford manor.
Wolves, West Brom, Fulham, Birmingham and Stoke are all up there – or down there – with a Norwich.
Equally whether a stint at LA Galaxy has sharpened Robbie Keane’s finishing to Euro2012 standards is another matter; I ‘get’ that one – you would have him on board for experience, if nothing else.
And, in fairness, winger James McCLean looks a genuine prospect at Sunderland.
And you can make the argument for a settled squad; that you rewards the players that got you on a plane in the first place with a ticket to the big gig… if it ain’t broke, why try to fix it with two fresh faces from that place called Norwich?
But then neither Steve Morison nor Andrew Crofts disgraced themselves when handed the red jersey of Wales; both would be heading East this summer had they qualified; they can hold their own amongst the Giggs’ and the Bales, the Ramseys and the Bellamys.
I presume the ‘stand-by’ ticket is something you can turn down; that the ‘pecking order’ of international acclaim doesn’t continue down that far so that the likes of Paul Green (unattached) is deemed higher up in Trapattoni’s thoughts than the luckless ‘Norwich Two’.
At the end of the day, perhaps both players will benefit from a long, hot summer on the beach; watching the game from some exotic pool bar.
But, personally, I think their efforts over this season and the last deserve rather greater international recognition than the Italian seems fit to offer.
I don’t know. Odd, appears the best word. Very odd.