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Arm' ready for Trap call: Kelly

PERM, Donetsk, Sofia, Wolfsburg. Reads like the list of locations from a bad Cold War spy novel.

But they are all football venues where Fulham FC came, saw and conquered in their remarkable European run last season, and that experience of high octane games in difficult venues has given Fulham defender Stephen Kelly confidence that Ireland can make the 8,000km round trip to Yerevan this week and bring home a haul of three points.

We all know that Ireland's away form in qualifying games is poor, our record in the old eastern bloc even worse, our last win behind what used to be the Iron Curtain coming back in 2003, a 2-1 defeat of Albania which was earned by an own goal.

But Kelly, who hopes to get the nod at full back from Giovanni Trapattoni and earn his 19th cap on Friday, says he's more that capable of dealing with any pressure in Yerevan.

"It's not easy to play in places like Armenia, I got a taste for that in the European run with Fulham last season," Kelly told the Herald as the former Tottenham man works hard in training this week to try and dislodge Kevin Kilbane from the No3 shirt.

"We played in places like Perm in Russia, Donetsk in Ukraine, Sofia in Bulgaria, Vetra in Lithuania, we went there and came away with good results. I know what to expect now for this game, I know what it's like to have a six-hour or seven-hour flight, play in a hostile place with a small stadium and a vocal crowd.

"I'd never heard of Perm or Vetra before but you just had to go there and get the result. When we arrived in Perm for the game there was a big crowd there waiting for us, all dressed in black with sickles in their hands, banners saying Rest In Peace, it was crazy stuff. It was 12 at night when we were coming off the bus and here you basically had a lynch mob waiting for us. Hopefully it won't be like that in Armenia, but we will be prepared right for the trip and the game.

"I have experience of that and I will use that if picked on Friday. I've played in some tough places with the Irish team too, I played in Bratislava and Prague in the Euro campaign, I played in Sofia in the last one, and they are very hard places to go," added Kelly.

"I know some fans will look at Armenia and think it's a handy three points for us, or at least a game we're expected to win, but we have to be completely on our game to get a result.

"I think we need to win the game if we're serious about winning the group, for us to put our stamp on the group and show that we're serious we need to be winning games like this. We have to aim for six points from the first two matches, make a statement to the likes of Russia and Slovakia that we are a team to be afraid of.

"We have the talent and the ability, and with the confidence we had from the way we finished the World Cup campaign, and the wins in the friendlies in May, we can go there and win.

"Our away record with Ireland isn't great, we have often found it difficult away from home. I know that from the games I played in the group under Steve Staunton, we lost in Prague and drew in Slovakia. But there is a different mentality in the team now, the personnel has changed a good bit.

"So somewhere like Armenia is a hard place to get a result, but the way we are set up now - defensively solid and good going forward - I think we can go there and get the win," said Kelly.

"It's going to be a tricky game, the manager and the coaching staff will have done their homework so we'll know what to expect. They are an unknown quantity, it's the first game of the new campaign, our first time to play Armenia, our first time in a place like Yerevan. So it's going to be a tough game, I know people will put pressure on us and expect us to win, but if we can perform as well as we have done in the last few games we can do well in the group, so we can go there and get a good result."

Kelly is a long-serving member of the Ireland squad now, having made his debut under Steve Staunton in 2006, and while he played a large part in the doomed Euro 2008 campaign he had only small bites in the World Cup qualifiers.

But Kelly hopes that his impressive early-season form with Fulham, revived by new boss Mark Hughes, could see him get the call.

"I feel like I have done really well, I have played in the last few games and done well, I am playing well for my club and if ever I am to get a chance, maybe this is the time. I have been in the squad long enough now, I am experienced enough to be able to play in these qualifiers. So we'll see what the manager decides but I feel confident and hopefully I can capitalise on that by playing in the next two games for my country," says Kelly, who stands his best chance of a game at left full.

"I have played 50 per cent of the Ireland games at left back and people tend to forget that, most of the games I played for Ireland under Steve Staunton were at left full and it's a nice asset for me to have, to be able to play across the back comfortably.

"I am playing left back for Fulham now, I know I might get shifted to right back but the manager is happy with how I have started the season, I think I put in some good performances and the manager and the coaching staff say they are very happy with how I am doing. I have kept my place in the team so that's a big boost for me.

"The season has started well for me and the club, it wasn't easy as we had a changeover with the new manager coming in, but we have adapted to the manager's style quickly and really embraced the way he works."

Kelly has played under some top drawer managers in his time but he's really thriving under Hughes at Craven Cottage.

"Training has been excellent, it's very different to what we did before. Under Roy Hodgson it was more about shape, he took the sessions and they were a lot more regimented while under Mark Hughes it's more intense, it's a little bit different every day. We did great under Roy last season, probably the best season the club has hard, so it wasn't easy to see how we could change things for the better, but we have done that under Mark Hughes," Kelly revealed.

"With Roy it was very like Ireland with Trapattoni, an Italian mentality, everyone knows their role and it's a similar session every day but with the new boss, Mark Hughes, it varies every day and I am really enjoying it.

"I did well in pre-season, the manager saw that and put me into the team and I have kept my place at left back. My form is good and the international break is a chance for me to come and play some more matches."