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Pilkington proves his commitment


Anthony Pilkington has finally linked up with the Ireland squad

Anthony Pilkington has finally linked up with the Ireland squad

PA Archive/Press Association Images

Anthony Pilkington has finally linked up with the Ireland squad

Anthony Pilkington has re-affirmed his commitment to Ireland after finally joining up with the squad at the sixth time of asking.

The 25-year-old Norwich midfielder had previously been called up five times by manager Giovanni Trapattoni, but on each occasion, had been forced to withdraw through injury.

Trapattoni has at times during his reign hit out at players who have cried off after being selected, and doubts had been expressed in some quarters over Pilkington.

However, having trained for the first time with his international colleagues ahead of Friday's World Cup qualifier against Sweden, the former Huddersfield man insisted no-one was more frustrated than him at the catalogue of misfortune which kept him back in England.

He said: "It was five times in the end that I couldn't come over, so it was frustrating, very frustrating.

"The first time, I was ready to come over that night, so it was obviously very frustrating. But that's behind me now and hopefully I can crack on and do well.

"Obviously I can see why people started talking, but I would have been no good to anybody coming here and playing with a dodgy knee or playing with a torn hamstring.

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"I wouldn't be helping anybody, I wouldn't be helping myself or the country, so people need to realise that I had the injuries.

"I was always committed. The first time I had to pull out, my bags were packed ready to come over.

"We had a morning game and we were due to fly out, me and Wes [Hoolahan], after the game and I got injured during the game.

"Like I say, I would be no good to anybody coming over here with a bad hamstring and saying I was fit if I wasn't.

"But I am here now and I am excited for the game. I'll hopefully get in a good week's training and hopefully we can pick up the points we need on Friday."

Trapattoni was clearly satisfied with the explanations offered by Pilkington for his non-attendance and has kept him in his sights, and that is something for which the player is immensely grateful.

He said: "The medical teams both spoke to each other constantly and the boss was always talking to me by text, so there was always communication between both parties at all times.

"Luckily, he has kept calling me up and it's the right time to come over now. My knee feels all right at the moment, so hopefully I'll get a good week's training and I'm looking forward to the game."

Ireland face a fight to lever themselves into second place in Group C with they, Sweden and next Tuesday's opponents Austria locked together on 11 points.

But Pilkington and his team-mates know only too well the prize which awaits them, and that is motivation enough.

He said: "Everyone knows the World Cup is the biggest tournament in the sport, probably in any sport. It's massive, it's huge and it's huge for the country to get there.

"It will be a massive occasion if we do get there, so hopefully we can put in a good performance against Sweden on Friday, pick up the points and then start the ball rolling towards hopefully getting there."

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