Nothing guaranteed says Republic of Ireland boss Kenny as James McClean nears century for his country
JAMES McClean is within touching-distance of fulfilling his dream of a century of caps for the Republic of Ireland but manager Stephen Kenny has cautioned the Derry man that “you can’t guarantee anybody anything” in football.
Wigan Athletic winger McClean was named in Kenny’s squad for this month’s Nations League clashes with Scotland (Hampden Park, September 24) and Armenia (Dublin, September 28) and appearances in both would take him to 96 caps.
McClean made his debut for the Republic in February 2012 and, over a decade later, he is now seventh on the all-time appearances list topped by Robbie Keane who won 146 caps. Now 33, McClean may not break Keane’s record but 100 caps is not beyond him if he remains injury-free. However, Kenny – who nurtured McClean’s energetic talent during his second spell as manager of Derry City – sounded note of caution when he announced his squad for the forthcoming double-header.
“You never know what way football will go,” said Kenny at the Aviva Stadium yesterday.
“I know he’s very determined and that (100 caps) is his personal goal and it’s a huge ambition to do that. He’s playing in a Wigan team, performing and playing a lot of matches and he’s always in the team, always declared fit.”
With 11 international goals, McClean is 14th on the list of Ireland’s best marksmen. He began as a winger who could play up front, but as his career has progressed he has reinvented himself as an attacking wingback. The Republic are well supplied with full-backs at present.
“It’s a competitive area for us,” said Kenny.
“Obviously with a lot of championship players there: Enda Stevens, Ryan Manning and Robbie Brady coming into the fore and also Callum O’Dowda has played there as well.
“And he had to learn that position himself, having always been a left-winger. He had to adapt and he has he adapted and I’m sure he wants to continue to play.
“But there are never any guarantees and James would never expect there to be guarantees and it’s still some distance away.”
McClean has been a fixture – either at left back or as a wing-back in a five-man midfield – for Wigan who are mid-table in the Championship and recently signed London-born former Republic U21 midfielder Anthony Scully.
However, fellow Derry native Shane Duffy has struggled to nail down a place in Fulham’s starting line-up while experienced defenders Seamus Coleman and Matt Doherty have also seen little action with Everton and Tottenham respectively so far this season.
Republic manager Kenny conceded that the lack of game-time for the experienced back-three was “not an ideal situation again” ahead of the trip to Hampden Park and he’ll keep a watchful eye on the trio at training.
“Whoever is in form, will play,” said Kenny.
“Shane, Seamus and Matt all have contributions to make to this team and sometimes at their club they’re one injury away from getting back in. With Seamus and Matt, their injuries impacted their pre-season and they weren’t really available at the start of the season.
“Shane went to Fulham on loan and they’ve persisted with the two centre-backs that got them up (to the Premier League) and are doing well.
“But they are three players with a lot of experience who are very important to us and they’ve proved themselves consistently over the years but it’s difficult to step up when you’ve not played for a long time.
“It’s not ideal, we’ll have to have a look at and reflect on when we see everyone in training.”
Republic of Ireland Squad - Scotland & Armenia
Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Southampton), Mark Travers (AFC Bournemouth), Max O'Leary (Bristol City)
Defenders: Seamus Coleman (Everton), Matt Doherty (Tottenham Hotspur), Shane Duffy (Fulham), John Egan (Sheffield United), Nathan Collins (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Andrew Omobamidele (Norwich City), Dara O'Shea (West Bromwich Albion), James McClean (Wigan Athletic), Robbie Brady (Preston North End).
Midfielders: Josh Cullen (Burnley), Jeff Hendrick (Reading), Jason Knight (Derby County), Alan Browne (Preston North End), Jayson Molumby (West Bromwich Albion), Conor Hourihane (Derby County), Callum O'Dowda (Cardiff City).
Forwards: Chiedozie Ogbene (Rotherham United), Michael Obafemi (Swansea City), Troy Parrott (Preston North End), Callum Robinson (Cardiff City), Scott Hogan (Birmingham City).