Sunday 23 October 2016

Harry's game for Euro squad battle with nervous wait for final call

Harry Arter
Harry Arter

There's a game on at 7.45pm tomorrow, but another game, a waiting game, goes on until late tomorrow night, with Martin O'Neill leaving it until as late a possible to name his 23-man squad for the Euro 2016 finals.

Most managers have already put their players out of their misery, Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill naming his squad in the early hours of Saturday, a very stylish way of doing the job with the names of the 23 successful ones flashed up on screen.

Harry Arter is one of the nervous ones: in with a shout but also in danger of being left behind. He took a step towards inclusion with a decent enough display in Friday's 1-1 draw at home to Holland, but he also didn't do quite enough to nail down a place in the travelling party,

So the Bournemouth man admits that it's a nervous time ahead, as O'Neill confirms he will only pick his 23-strong squad after the final whistle of tomorrow's clash with Belarus but before UEFA's 11pm deadline.

"I'd prefer to know if I was definitely in it, but of course that's not the case for myself and a few others," says Arter, who won only his second senior cap against the Dutch.

"But if someone said to me that they would either name it tomorrow and I'm not in it, or they'd name it on Tuesday and I've a chance of being in it, of course I'd rather wait until Tuesday. So I'm happy to wait and fingers crossed I'll be in it." Competition for those midfield places,, already intense, became even greater over the weekend when David Meyler joined the squad, having helped Hull City win promotion to the Premier League on Saturday.

Arter, Stephen Quinn and Eunan O'Kane got their chances on Friday, Meyler is expected to get a run-out tomorrow, with Arter admitting that Friday was like an audition for the big stage.

"Individually, yeah, for me it is," he says. "For some players, it's not - and rightly so, they are proven at this level and they deserve to be going to France.

"Of course, for myself, playing 20 minutes prior to that [against England last year], I would be foolish to think that it's anything other than an audition.

"I don't see that as pressure, I see that as a good challenge and I feel lucky enough to have that challenge. I try to give my all, that's all.

"I feel proud and honoured to get the shirt on Friday in what was my first start. I try to give my all. If I get any minutes against Belarus it will be similar to that," Arter aded.

He got booked for his efforts on Friday, Arter admitting that he was unlikely to shirk from a tackle as sticking the boot in is his game.

"That's the sort of player I am. I never really change the way I play. I may have to calm it down a little bit but that's the kind of player I am," he says.

After has two major advantages in that battle to get into the squad - and it is a battle between himself, Meyler, Darron Gibson, Eunan O'Kane and Stephen Quinn to get the one or two midfield slots which are up for grabs.

There's his status as a Premier League player, no mean feat given the spread of Championship players in this Irish squad.

He also has the clear affection of Martin O'Neill, as the Ireland boss really, really likes the Bournemouth boy.

Given Arter's lack of international experience - he's started just one game for Ireland and has never played in a competitive international - and his back luck with injury this season, the Ireland manager could have been forgiven for omitting Arter at this stage, due to that pair of large question marks over his head.

He's made it this far unlike, say, Stephen Gleeson or the now-forgotten Paul Green, a man who failed to make the initial squad for Euro 2012 but got a late reprieve to fill in for the injured Keith Fahey.

Arter's still green at international level, but at least's he's in the mix.

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