Sunday 21 January 2018

Hopes fade for Irish trio

Everton's Seamus Coleman. Picture: Nigel French/PA
Everton's Seamus Coleman. Picture: Nigel French/PA

FOR those who predicted a busy transfer summer for some of Ireland's best young players, the silence from the Premier League has been deafening so far.

The next week will tell a tale about James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman and Shane Long.

With all the attention on Gareth Bale for the last few weeks, the hopes and dreams of Giovanni Trapattoni's top men have hardly registered a murmur on the transfer grapevine.

Trapattoni put it nicely when he was asked about Long's touted move to Roma when he told us that Italian journalists and clubs don't know how good (or bad) the quality is in this Irish football generation.



That is probably the least surprising element of the current transfer window. Perception is everything and it is a long time since Italian armchair football watchers saw men like Roy Keane, Denis Irwin or Damien Duff playing for the best clubs in England at the business end of the Champions League.

Or even in big, top-of-the-table games in the Premier League like last night's hypefest at Old Trafford. A game viewed by a huge global audience is the best place to strut your stuff.

Long's name has popped up quite a bit over the years in the transfer market and it's not the first time gossip about a possible switch to Serie A has crested the line between kite-flying and tangible interest.

Trapattoni believes that Long and other Irish players could do well in Italy, and why not?

But let's face it, everyone would prefer if the other club reported to be in the equation, Arsenal, turned out to be a realistic destination.

Arsene Wenger's distress could be Long's opportunity. The Gunners boss seems unhinged by this season's transfer window and unable to do the kind of business which seems so easy for clubs like Chelsea, Manchester City and Spurs.

By loitering without any intent, Wenger has limited his options to the point where it looks like he can only fish in the local pool.

Long is hardly a major catch even by that standard, but Arsenal need bodies and a physically strong front-runner with plenty of pace is never a bad investment.

Not that Long himself has ever shot the lights out. He lingered behind Kevin Doyle for a spell before they went their separate ways from Reading – one to Wolves and then the other to West Brom.

Long made a good choice and has done reasonably well at a small club. With limited opportunities at international level, his career has plateaued and we're still waiting for the explosive impact his potential offered when he first emerged with a hurl in his hand and raw talent leaking from every muscle.

When he's on song, the combination of pace and power is all but unplayable, but we don't see that half often enough. Exposure to a higher standard on the training ground at Arsenal might be all that is needed to turn him into the player many believe he can be.

Right now, however, Wenger needs players who will have an immediate influence on his team and if that is his criteria, James McCarthy would be a better bet. In the last few years, the two names have been linked more than once.

McCarthy's movements remain shrouded and if there is business being done by Wigan, they are keeping it very quiet indeed. Surely it is within the club's interests for a queue to form and an auction to kick off?

Or maybe there is a long chain transfer waiting to happen which will set dominoes falling and end up with McCarthy at Everton. David Moyes' pursuit of Maroaune Fellaini could be the one.



Or maybe he is just not rated highly enough by anyone other than mid-rank clubs and will never get the chance to play in the Champions League.

The great mystery of this window is the absence of any speculation about Seamus Coleman, a player who would brighten up any team and one who is only going to get better and stronger as this season progresses.

It is no bad thing that he will continue his development at a club where he will play every week once he's fit but like McCarthy, the feeling is that he will rise to meet any standard and that there is nothing to be gained at this stage from a low-key approach.

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