DAVID Meyler starts his international career tonight the day after Sunderland team-mate James McClean was told how lucky he is still to have one.
After two cruciate knee ligament injuries which could have ended his career, Meyler will line up for the Republic of Ireland in this evening’s friendly against Oman at Fulham’s Craven Cottage.
The 23-year-old starts in an experimental Ireland team after first choices Keiren Westwood and John O’Shea were sent back to the Academy of Light, giving them extra time to prepare for Saturday’s televised visit of Liverpool.
Winger McClean has been retained after his Friday night Twitter outburst, although manager Giovanni Trapattoni has told the media that may well not have been the case had he been born in a country with a stronger footballing pedigree.
McClean posted an expletive-ridden message on the social networking site complaining about being an unused substitute in Ireland’s scratchy 2-1 win in Kazakhstan.
First the message and now the account have been deleted, and Sunderland will be reminding him of his responsibilities when he returns from international duty.
Trapattoni said: “Another manager, English or German, would have said take your bag and go home but I might need him in the game to score a goal.”
McClean is expected to be back on the bench tonight and was also made to apologise to the whole squad who, by implication, he also disrespected.
The manager added: “He was mortified. If he could have, he would have eaten his words. He was very apologetic. I said to
everyone this is not about respect for the manager, this is about respect for everyone. I said the players are your colleagues.
“If I don’t play him, I can play others. “There were Stephen Kelly and Kevin Doyle on the bench. They have many caps.
“The matter is closed now. With the young we need to have patience. Sometimes they say things they regret.”
Although inexperienced, 23-year-old McClean is one of Ireland’s most talented players but, since making his international debut in February, his only start has come in a friendly at home to Bosnia-Herzegovina – hence his frustration. Meyler played seven times for the Republic Under-21s and was part of the squad which visited Kazakhstan for Friday’s World Cup qualifier.
Apart from picking up a red card in only his third game, Meyler made a positive start on Wearside after his move from Cork City in 2008.
His first serious injury came in the final game of the 2009-10 season; he suffered a recurrence shortly after his ahead-of-schedule return in January 2011.
Meyler rarely featured for Martin O’Neill last season, making one late-season Premier League appearance after being on the receiving end of a controversial tackle by Stoke City’s Robert Huth in February.
The match at the Britannia Stadium remains the only one he has started for O’Neill. However, he has come off the bench in three matches already this season as the Black Cats’ midfield has been depleted not so much by direct injuries but the need to redeploy Craig Gardner and Jack Colback because of shortages elsewhere.
The £10m signing of Adam Johnson to complement McClean has caused Sebastian Larsson to play in a different position too.
However, the Swede says he has had “fun” as a central midfielder in the last three matches.
He said: “I’ve really enjoyed it there. It just takes a bit of getting used to.
“I played there a lot when I was younger, but it is a position I will hopefully play in a lot more. “