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Friday 24 November 2017

Wilson baffled by criticism

Stoke ace Marc ‘in the dark’ over what he did to earn Trap scorn

HE'S a man who's eligible to play for two countries, but right now Marc Wilson hasn't got a country to play for.

Despite being a Premier League regular with Stoke City and one of the most versatile players in the Irish squad - the 24-year-old has played all across the back four and in midfield for Stoke and his previous club Portsmouth - Wilson today looks to have no chance of making the Republic of Ireland squad for the Euro 2012 finals.

He's one of our class acts in the Premier League, starting in 19 of Stoke's 21 league games this season (only three Irishmen, Jon Walters, Richard Dunne, Stephen Ward, have played more in England's top flight this season) and as he plays most of his football at left back these days, he is - or should be - an option for that position for Ireland as a challenger to the incumbent Stephen Ward.

His international career has had more stops than starts, as since he won his first U21 cap for the Republic over five years ago, he's played for his country just once more, when he made his senior debut against Wales 11 months ago.

And right now, his international career appears to be at an all-time low, as Giovanni Trapattoni had some very harsh words to say about Wilson when he spoke to the media in Dublin last weekend.

Asked about the notion of Wilson 'defecting' to his native Northern Ireland, Trap was scathing in his response.

“He can go. If he wishes to go, we have other options. There's no problem,” said the manager, who went on to suggest that Wilson was one of the players who had been dropped from the squad for disciplinary reasons.

“The players have to have a certain behaviour when they come into the squad.

“There was a situation, I cannot say what. But there were other reasons why these players weren't called up but it's a serious matter,” Trap said last Friday. “When 20 players behave cor

rectly and another two do not, those two need to stay at home because we have others who can play. When he says to us ‘I'm sorry, I made a great mistake' then I can pick him again. When you work, you don't go out at night.”

There have been run-ins over Wilson before - he was named in the starting XI for the game against Northern Ireland last year but failed to show for duty, a matter which Wilson said was an issue of communication between the medical staff at his club and the FAI.

And last summer there was a mini war of words between his club boss and the Ireland manager as Stoke manager Tony Pulis was very angry that Trapattoni demanded that Wilson and club-mate Jon Walters travelled to Dublin to be assessed by the FAI medical staff before a friendly with Croatia even though the pair were injured.

But Wilson, speaking about the matter for the first time today, says he's baffled by the manager's accusations.

“If it's some sort of disciplinary matter, this is the first time I have heard a word about it. I haven't heard anything from anyone in Ireland or the FAI. Not a word, the first I knew about what the manager said was when you rang me,” Wilson told the Evening Herald.

“There is not a single incident I can think of that he can be thinking about. I'm in the dark about it. If I had done something wrong I'd have no problem with the manager saying that, I'd hold my hand up and apologise for what I'd done, I'd gladly do that.

“But nobody has explained to me what I am supposed to apologise for. I am curious now to find out what exactly has happened. I don't even understand how this has come about,

I haven't been in that many squads and I haven't been in the squad at all since August.

“If I have done something to upset the manager, neither he nor the FAI have said to me what that is, so I can't apologise when I don't know what I have done.

"I am big enough and old enough to say sorry when I have crossed the line or broken the rules but that's not the case this time,” added Wilson, who says he underlined his commitment to the national team by travelling to Dublin ahead of the Croatia game last August even though he was injured.

“I remember the Croatia game last year, I had got injured in pre-season and I wasn't available, but I came over to Dublin anyway to get assessed.

"Myself and Jonny (Jon Walters) were in the same boat, we were injured and unable to play in the game but we did fly over to get assessed and went back to England,” he says.

The latest spat over his international career has again raised the issue of Wilson, who was born in Aghagallon Co Antrim, of playing for Northern Ireland.

Michael O'Neill has very few Premier League players to choose from now and the idea of having Wilson, who is a permanent fixture in a Stoke side which is in the top eight of the Premier League, on board would be a big boost for the North.

Wilson won't use his dual-eligibility as a bargaining chip, as players have done before and says the matter is closed.

“I want to play for the Republic and no one else, I made my mind up years ago to play for the Republic and that has never changed.

“Not for a second. I don't just want to play international football for anyone, I want to play for the Republic, I said that from day one,” he told the Evening Herald.

“There's been no approach from Michael or the IFA at all, no phone call or text but it would be a wasted phone call,” Wilson said.

“There's no doubt in my mind as to the team I want to play for, if I'm not going to play for the Republic then I won't play international football.”

What makes this harder for Wilson is that he hears stories in training every day from team-mates Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters, the duo - who are guaranteed to travel to Poland if fit - engaging in banter with Dane Thomas Sorensen, the only other Stoke man who will travel to the finals.

“I see the lads in training every day and they're all looking forward to the Euros, I hear about it all the time,” Wilson says.

“I feel I could play and do well for the national team. I'm in the Stoke team and doing well so I have no doubt about being able to play at international level.

“I suppose for the moment all I can do is play well for Stoke and see where that takes me. My form is good, I've played something like 25 games for Stoke this season and I'm happy to be playing. I just want to play for my country again.”

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