The next best thing to being there is to place a wager on any of the matches being played in the World Cup. But where can you turn to for advice? Other than the list of bookies on Soccernews.com, there aren’t a lot of good trusted sources of advice and information available unless one of your mates is an expert punter.
Fortunately for Republic of Ireland supporters, the Euro 2016 qualifiers are justaround the corner. But beginning in September, Ireland is looking for someone to replace the glaring gap at left-back. This is a position, which nobody seems to have nailed down since the days of Ian Harte. There are a lot of players in the pool to select from but who will be the one to gain the trust of Martin O’Neill?
Here are seven candidates for the job.
1. Ciaran Clark:
Clark is a versatile player and has played this position for his club on a couple of occasions this past season with success. He’s comfortable on the ball, likes getting forward and could be seen down the left flank behind countryman Jack Grealish at Aston Villa next season. The 24-year-old can be a bit rash in the challenge and picks up many needless yellow cards but if he learns with experience he can gain patience and discipline.
2. Greg Cunningham:
At only 23-years-old, Cunningham can still play a massive role in the future of Irish football. Coming through the ranks at Manchester City, he looked like a major talent but injuries and relegation with Bristol City has put a bummer on his career. The last two seasons have been disappointing to say the least after two notable loans with Leicester and Nottingham Forest, Cunningham now has relegation from the English Championship and a 13th place finish in League One to his name. If he can get a club at a commendable level and is playing every week I have no doubt he would be a favorite to start.
3. James McClean:
This is one I find very interesting and something I’d love to see tried. McClean’s career hasn’t gone the many thought it would go after he signed with Sunderland in 2011 but that’s not to say it can’t be reignited by a move of position to left-back. He is an aggressive player who loves a challenge and if something like this was tried out in the summer friendly matches it would excite fans and give McClean another chance to display his value and skill.
4. Joey O’Brien:
O’Brien has been very unlucky with injuries throughout his career which caused him to be left out off the international set-up for over four years. He missed out on a call up to O’Neill’s first squad due to a shoulder injury that prematurely ended his season with West Ham. Should O’Brien come through the next season injury-free I would like to see him be given the chance he never got under Giovanni Trapattoni as he’s one of the few contenders for the role who is playing top flight football.
5. Stephen Ward:
Ward broke into the side during the Carling Nation’s Cup Tournament in 2011 and he was immediately a fan favorite. Unfortunately, poor performances in Euro 2012 and in World Cup qualifiers forced Trapattoni to drop the 28-year-old. No longer popular among fans, many claiming he’s not even good enough for the squad, O’Neill seems to have a soft spot for Ward by selecting him to start in all the matches he’s managed so far. The versatile full-back had one of the best seasons of his career this season and is gaining back to quality he once lost.
6. Aidan White:
After bursting on to the scene in 2008 at the age of 16, White was given a contract that would run until 2012 at Leeds United. Like Cunningham, White has had a career plagued by injury, which has hindered his development. After being named Leeds’ young player of the year at the end of the 2009-10 season his career has been a roller-coaster ride since. Not being able to nail down a starting position in a team that finished 15th in the Championship may not help his hopes for a senior call up but if he does get a starting spot at Leeds or elsewhere he would deserve reconsideration.
7. Marc Wilson:
Wilson would be most fans’ first choice left back but not O’Neill’s. He has so far played Wilson as a center-back in all of the games under manager and is also playing there for his club. The Stoke City man is very comfortable on the ball and really is probably the best option at left-back so he deserves an opportunity to use his versatility to the advantage of the national team.
As you can see there are plenty of options but only one can start. O’Neill and his staff have to do their due diligence in researching which player will fit their philosophy the best and contribute to Ireland improving their status in world football.