Norwich City midfielder Anthony Pilkington eyes long term Republic of Ireland future
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Norwich City midfielder Anthony Pilkington insisted it was a simple choice to pledge his international allegiance to the Republic of Ireland.
Pilkington's hamstring injury suffered in the Canaries' weekend 0-0 Premier League draw at QPR robbed the 24-year-old of a chance to earn his first senior cap for the Irish in Wednesday's Dublin friendly against Poland.
The Lancashire-bred midfielder qualifies through a paternal grandmother but Pilkington is committed to the Irish cause after previously being mentioned in England circles following his impressive step up to the Premier League since his move from Huddersfield.
'There were little bits and pieces in the press but I never spoke to anyone from that side,' he told the Irish Examiner prior to his untimely injury withdrawal from this week's friendly. 'People were asking, 'Why hasn't he declared for one side?' but I hadn't spoken either to the FAI or the English set-up. And as soon as Ireland did get in touch, that's when I made my mind up that I wanted to play for them.'
Pilkington is convinced he can handle the international stage after Republic boss Giovanni Trapattoni hailed his defensive qualities alongside his goalscoring potential.
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'Yeah, definitely,' he says. 'At Norwich this year I've probably had to do a little bit more defending than maybe a winger normally does but that's to help the team. It's all part of the game now. You're not just an attacking player any more, you've got to help out the man behind you and do a job for the team as well as yourself. I don't mind doing that but obviously I mainly like attacking and if I get a chance to play, hopefully I can nick a goal.'
Pilkington's City team-mate Wes Hoolahan trained with the Irish squad at Malahide yesterday and is poised to make his third appearance for his country.
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'He's real quality,' added Pilkington. 'Some of the things he does with the ball and some of the situations he gets out of, his passing and dribbling – he's a really good player. The Norwich fans call him 'Wessi' down here, like Messi. He may not get as many goals but he plays in the pocket and he's really dangerous there and creates so many goals for the team. I can't speak highly enough of him – he's probably the best player I've played with up to now.'
Pilkington is joined on the international sidelines this week by City team mates Alex Tettey and defender Ryan Bennett. Tettey has been ruled out of Norway's game against Ukraine in Seville with a knee problem, while Bennett misses tonight's England Under-21s' game against Sweden in Walsall with a hamstring injury. Tettey played the full 90 minutes in Norwich's weekend Premier League goalless draw at QPR.