Belfast Telegraph

James McClean ankle injury a worry for Republic of Ireland boss

By Damian Spellman

Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill has been left sweating over the fitness of winger James McClean ahead of Sunday night's Euro 2016 qualifier against Poland.

The Londonderry-born Wigan midfielder limped out of training at Gannon Park in Malahide yesterday with his left ankle heavily strapped and was immediately taken for a scan.

O'Neill later insisted the examination was precautionary, but he was left crossing his fingers over a man who has become a regular in his team.

The former Northern Ireland skipper said: "James has got a sore ankle. He's gone for a scan - precautionary, I hope - but he was just feeling it a little bit. We'll see how he is.

"It didn't happen in training. He felt a little bit sore after yesterday. He thought it might go away, but it's just a bit of a pain across the ankle."

O'Neill will be desperate to have McClean fit for the clash with the surprise Group D leaders with fellow wide-man Aiden McGeady having not played for Everton since January 31 because of a knee problem, from which he has now recovered but which has left him short of match fitness.

The 63-year-old, who first worked with McClean during their time at Sunderland, insists he is yet to pick his team for what could prove to be a pivotal game in the campaign, but admits the former Derry City winger has become an important player for him.

He said: "They are all key. We haven't picked the side yet, but James has played exceptionally well for us in most of the games since I have been in charge.

"Obviously I know him quite well - very well, in fact - and yes, he's a good player for us."

Harry Arter had only to turn to his brother-in-law for advice as he prepared to embark upon his senior international career with the Republic of Ireland.

The Bournemouth midfielder arrived at the Republic's Portmarnock base on Monday to meet up with O'Neill's squad for the first time, but he did so having quizzed Fulham's former England international Scott Parker about life on the big stage.

Parker is married to Arter's sister Carly, and sent the 25-year-old on his way telling him just to do what he has been doing for the Cherries this season to help leave them within striking distance of the Barclays Premier League.

Asked what the former Charlton, Chelsea, Newcastle, West Ham and Tottenham midfielder's advice had been, Arter said: "Just 'be yourself', really, I think that's all you can do.

"You have been picked for a reason and I have been picked because the manager was impressed with the way I play, so if I come here any different and not confident, then I would not show the best of my ability.

"He just said, 'be yourself, that's what you are picked for'.

"I'm pleased with my form. I am part of a team that's top of the league and things are going well.

"My main goal when I play is to be a positive influence on the team and try to be part of a successful team, and at the moment we are, so all in all, good."

Arter, who qualifies for the Republic through his grandmother, has fought his way back in his career after having to prove himself all over again in non-league football with Woking after being released by Charlton.

O'Neill has been to see the player, who has represented Ireland at Under-17 and Under- 19 level, on several occasions this season, but did not inform him of his impending elevation.

Arter said: "I didn't realise. I was just in the gym, and one of the lads just popped in and said 'congratulations, you got called up'. It was a nice surprise.

"I spoke to Martin maybe a few days after that and he told me his thoughts, and I just couldn't wait to get over here."

Belfast Telegraph


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