Sky Blues land Philliskirk
Barnsley manager David Flitcroft has confirmed that his interest
in former Tykes midfielder Brian Howard is on hold.
Howard recently approached the club with regards to a possible
return following his release from Portsmouth in the middle of last
Flitcroft said at the time that he was keen on exploring the
possibilities of a deal, but is now in no rush to bring back the
club’s former skipper.
“I’ve spoken to his people and at the minute we’ve cooled off,”
said Flitcroft. “It’s possibly down to the emergence of Kelvin
Etuhu and his form and I’ve got Rory (Delap) now who can come in
“So at the minute we’re quite comfy in what we’re doing. I
definitely don’t want to unsettle the group, but you’re only one
injury away from having to find that replacement.
“It’s something I could revisit at a different point, but with
the FA Cup coming up and everything it won’t be in the next 10
Howard, a fans favourite during his three-and-a-half years at
Oakwell, joined the club from Swindon in 2005 and scored the
90th-minute winner for Barnsley at Anfield in February 2008 that
knocked Liverpool out of the FA Cup.
The Republic head for Sweden on March 22 and entertain Austria
at the Aviva Stadium four days later as the three sides chasing
Group C leaders Germany jockey for position in the race for second
Sweden are the current occupants with seven points, one more
than Giovanni Trapattoni’s men, while the Austrians lie in fourth
on four points with all three teams having played three games.
However, the Swedes went to Germany on October 16 last year,
four days after Ireland were trounced 6-1 on their own pitch by
Joachim Low’s side, and returned with a point after a remarkable
Asked if next month’s fixtures are likely to be decisive, Whelan
said: “Yes, I think so.
“We know Germany are probably the favourites – well, they are
the favourites – so everyone is fighting for the second spot.
“Obviously, the results that Sweden have been getting, it’s
going to be tough, but we can only go out and do our best.
“If we get the right result, it gives everyone a lift and
something to look forward to, so that’s what we are hopefully going
Trapattoni and his players will head for their showdown in
Stockholm in positive mood after Wednesday night’s 2-0 friendly
victory over Poland in Dublin.
The Italian rang the changes, partly through necessity with
Richard Dunne, Seamus Coleman, Keith Andrews and Darron Gibson
injured while skipper Robbie Keane and central defender Darren
O’Dea were excused duty.
Millwall’s David Forde started in goal with number one Keiren
Westwood’s lack of club football with Sunderland a growing concern
for his international manager, while Ciaran Clark, Greg Cunningham,
Robbie Brady, James McCarthy, James McClean and debutant Conor
There were impressive cameos too from Norwich’s Wes Hoolahan and
Derby’s Jeff Hendrick, who combined for the former to cement
victory with his first senior international goal after Clark had
opened his account before the break.
Trapattoni for once had admitted in advance that the result was
secondary on a night when he wanted to look at his options, but in
the event, he got both as Ireland ended a run of two successive
home defeats in spirited fashion after having to weather an early
Whelan said: “People were saying it was only a friendly, but if
we had lost, it would have been a different story and different
“We knew it was massive. We have got a great bunch of young lads
coming through and it’s been a big turn-around from the last couple
of years because we have had some massive players who have retired
from international football.
“But the new lads have stepped up and it’s massive now for next
Defender John O’Shea, captaining the side in Keane’s absence,
admitted the new players, and 30-year-old Hoolahan in particular,
had given the manager something to think about ahead of two vital
He said: “It was a great goal from Wes. There might have been a
suspicion of handball – I think the Gaelic Dublin team better watch
“It was a great finish from him, though. The quality of Wes,
that’s what he is capable of.
“He came on and he has given the manager a tough decision now
for March. He came on and made a massive impact, he did what he had
“We probably passed it a little bit more because obviously the
size of Wes, we were looking in the second half to keep the ball a
bit better and bringing Wes on helped us to do that – but we can do
a lot better at that as well.
“He took his goal fantastically. The manager especially thinks
of people when they are scoring goals, it definitely opens his
eyes, and we will wait and see. But there are bodies to come back
Wilshere was outstanding in Wednesday night’s friendly victory
over Brazil, deservedly scooping the man-of-the-match prize as
England recorded their first win over the South Americans in 23
As a veteran of 90 internationals, 65 as skipper – a figure
exceeded only by Bobby Moore and Billy Wright – Robson is acutely
aware of the dangers lurking in heaping such high praise on
And speaking at a Subbuteo event at Wembley on behalf of
Absolute Radio and official England supporter Mars, Robson warned
are still areas of Wilshere’s game that require more work.
“Jack still has a bit to prove,” said Robson.
“He has good ability, works really hard for the team and has
that little bit of aggression which he wants to win. That all comes
out in his game.
“But I look at him and think what kind of player does Jack want
to be? Is he going to be an offensive player? If he is, he needs to
score more goals.
“If he is going to be defensive, he has to work that little bit
harder on the defensive side of his game.”
Yet Robson concedes Wilshere could have no better example to
learn from than skipper Steven Gerrard, whose understated
contribution last night went largely unnoticed amid the excellent
performances of Wilshere and Theo Walcott and the goals of Wayne
Rooney and Frank Lampard.
“Steven Gerrard has offensive and defensive qualities,” said
“When required, he can attack, he can score goals, alternatively
he can sit in front of the back four, defend and do a great passing
“That is what Jack has to try and achieve.
“The positive thing is that his attitude looks good. It seems
like he wants to learn and, when you have weaknesses, that is what
you need to become a better player.”
Robson also warned that the real challenge for Wilshere and his
team-mates will come 12 months after that, when they need to make
the step up from being a decent tournament team to one capable of
challenging for major honours.
“For England, the difference between being at a World Cup and
competing for it is how many of the young lads can actually make
the step up to the highest level,” Robson said.
“We have Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Ashley Cole, Jermain
Defoe and Wayne Rooney, who isn’t that old but has so much
experience, but you can’t expect those lads to do it on their
“(Manager) Roy Hodgson has given a chance to quite a few young
lads; Wilshere, Tom Cleverley, Chris Smalling and Phil Jones. Gary
Cahill has put himself in there.
“When you go further forward, can Daniel Sturridge come through,
Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Theo Walcott?
“These young lads have to take the next step.
“We all know they are decent players in the Premier League and
it is okay breaking into the England squad. But can you be
outstanding at the highest level?
“If three or four of them can become really good international
players, that will help us hugely at the World Cup.”
The 21-year-old forward is a free agent following his release by
Sheffield United in January and has been on trial with the Sky
City boss Mark Robins, who has again dismissed speculation
linking himself with various managerial vacancies in the
Championship, said: “Danny has been with Sheffield United for a
couple of years and prior to that had been acquired by Chelsea.
“This fits into our policy of trying to develop younger players
who can step through to the first team. We will assess the
situation at the end of the season, while giving Danny the
opportunity to earn himself a longer-term contract.”