IRELAND NEW BOY Anthony Pilkington insists that there was never any issue with his commitment — despite pulling out of Giovanni Trapattoni’s squad on five separate occasions.
The Norwich winger finally joined his new team-mates for training in Malahide yesterday, more than seven months after he was given an Irish passport and his first international call-up.
A succession of injuries stopped Pilkington from answering Trap’s summons but the Italian looked past his poor attendance record and kept him in his plans for the World Cup double-header against Sweden and Austria.
With regular winger Aiden McGeady ruled out by a hamstring injury and options limited, the squad’s newest face could be thrust straight into action on Friday night, a game Ireland cannot afford to lose if they want to qualify for Brazil.
“I can see why people started talking but I’d be no good to anyone coming here and playing with a dodgy knee or playing with a torn hamstring,” Pilkington explained yesterday.
“I wouldn’t be helping anybody. I wouldn’t be helping myself or the country.
People need to realise that I had these injuries. I was always committed.
The medical teams spoke to each other constantly and the boss was always talking to me and texting me. There was always constant communication between both parties at all times and luckily he’s kept calling me up.
Born in Blackburn but eligible to play for Ireland through his grandmother, Pilkington revealed that his club boss, former Ireland international Chris Hughton, gave him some advice when it came to choosing between Ireland’s offer or waiting on a call from England.
“The first time the country asked about my availability, he came and spoke to me and told me what the set-up was like.
He’s been over here and he played, so he was talking to me and telling me how it is. He just told me to go over and enjoy it.
Now that the false starts are behind him, the 25-year-old has settled quickly into the squad and is focused on making the best possible impression.
His flexibility will be an asset too and he is equally comfortable on either wing or in the hole behind the striker.
If he does get a chance, he’s determined to put in a performance that will put an end to any lingering doubts about his desire to pull on the green jersey.
“Every time you step on the pitch you want to put in your best performance and show people what you can do. Hopefully if I do get on the pitch on Friday and Tuesday, I can put in a good performance and do that.
“It doesn’t really bother if I play on the left or right or off a striker. It doesn’t really bother me.
“As long as I’m playing and playing freely, I’m happy.”