Wilson stoked by Euro dream
Potters ace: 'I turned down offer of late Trap call for Euro 2012'
The March friendly internationals came too soon for Marc Wilson to stake his claim to Martin O'Neill, but the Stoke City man hopes that a nightmare season can have a dream ending as he's confident of winning his fitness battle to earn a seat on the plane to France in June.
Wilson played a key role in the early phase of Euro 2016 qualification as he was John O'Shea's central defensive partner for the opening three games which yielded a seven-point haul, and he returned from a one-game absence, due to injury, to reclaim his place alongside O'Shea at home to Scotland and Poland.
But due to injury he's since played in just one of the last seven internationals, a second-half sub away to Bosnia, and as he's unfit for duty against Switzerland and Slovakia this week, the May date with Holland is now a key target for the Antrim man, sidelined with a knee problem since Janaury.
"This year hasn't been a particularly good year for me, I have had a lot of injuries and missed a lot of games, with my club and my country, but these things happen and I have to deal with them. I am just focused now on getting myself back into shape and the Euros is definitely my target," Wilson told the Herald.
"Myself and Shay Given are probably in the same boat at the club, trying to get back from injury but France in June is definitely the aim, I want the team to do well, I want us to go as far as possible, but I want to be part of that as well. I would love to be on that plane."
For Wilson, participating at Euro 2016 is even more of a driving force as he was unable to take part in Poland four years ago.
And the 28-year-old has now revealed that he did have an opportunity to travel to Poland under Giovanni Trapattoni but was unable to do so. "I did get called back into the squad, but I wasn't in the right shape to go and join up," Wilson says.
"The squad were already training, they were in their camp in Italy, I had been off for three weeks. By the time the manager called me, it was pointless. There was no way I'd have been fit.
"The manager did want me to go, but it wasn't to be. I hadn't done any work for three weeks, the Euros was about to start so it would have been of no benefit to me, or the team, to travel."
That experience underlines for Wilson the need to be fully fit before he can travel over for international duty. While it's been a tough season, he's enthused by the progress he has made.
"The rehab is going well, I have been running, I feel strong, I have kept myself in shape in the time I have been out, going to the gym every day. I've been out running every day for the last two and half weeks. Running is not the problem, it was just that I'd get a bit of pain when I'd go to kick the ball, but that has settled down and the injection I got yesterday will help it settle down even more," he says.
"There was no reaction (to the injection) and I hope to be back in full training with the lads at Stoke by the end of this week. After that, I don't know. Hopefully, I can get up my match fitness, get some U21 games in for Stoke and try to get some game time with the first team," says Wilson, who has been out since he suffered a knee tear in a FA Cup tie in January, which initially made him a doubt for the finals in June.
"It's taken a bit longer than I thought and I had hoped to be back playing by now but I have to make sure I am right. Strength-wise, the knee is fine so I will, hopefully, get into full training this week and take it from there."
Euro 2016 is a big talking point at his club: if fit, Glenn Whelan and Jon Walters could join Wilson and Given in the Ireland squad, Marko Arnautovic will travel with Austria and Xherdan Shaqiri with the Swiss, though last week's injury has ended Jack Butland's hopes. "That's bad for Jack but it's a chance for Shay, though the Danish keeper we have, Jakub, won't give it over easily, it's a call for the manager," he admits.
Wilson saw highlights of Friday's win over Switzerland and reckons the team gave a good account of themselves. "The lads did well, we had a lot of players who haven't had much game time for Ireland lately, so it was good to see them get a run and get a win as well," he says.
Wilson and O'Shea proved the central defensive pairing of choice when the campaign began but of late, Richard Keogh, Shane Duffy and Ciaran Clark have all come in, creating more competition for Wilson.
But he hopes his versatility, that option of playing at left back, can help. "It's the manager's call and you have to trust his decisions, you respect his decisions no matter what," says Wilson. "The Ireland manager knows I can play at left back as well as in the centre so it won't do me any harm."