Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne has handed Giovanni Trapattoni a huge boost and returned to training after his recent shoulder injury.
Dunne is expected to make his Villa comeback in the next week, and club boss Alex McLeish is delighted with his progress.
McLeish said, “It’s good news regarding Richard. He has rejoined the group for training. If he doesn’t make the game at West Brom this weekend, he should be ready for the Tottenham match.
“With a guy like Dunnie, and with what the modern day physical trainers and medical people do, the aim is to try and get the player up to speed so he can go straight back into the side.
“There should be plenty of preparation work for Dunnie so he can step straight back in.”
Italian coach Cesare Prandelli has confirmed that controversial Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli will be in the squad that faces Ireland at the Euro finals this summer.
“I never really thought of doing this without Balotelli, as he is a focal point of the national team,” said Prandelli, who left the striker out of his squad earlier this year for disciplinary reasons.
“Have I made peace with Balotelli? Yes, although to be honest we never argued in the first place. I was pleased that he took responsibility with his statements after the latest incident at Manchester City. I like those who stand up and accept responsibility for their actions.”
Meanwhile, Ireland and Sunderland defender John O’Shea believes James McClean is going to be a “very special” player for club and country for years to come.
“James is going the right way about it and doing his talking on the pitch. If the manager does pick him all well and good,” said O’Shea as speculation mounts that Trapattoni could bring McClean to the Euros.
“To be able to cope with coming from the League of Ireland and not having a break, because he had a full season with Derry, and to carry on and kick on, shows how good he is.
“It is not just mentally, but physically as well. He has been able to cope with the demands of the Premier League. He has been a special player for us. It is an exciting thing for the fans to be talking about and to be seeing him playing the way he has been in the Premier League.
“The manager has his squad in mind and James is going the right away about it to get a chance of going to the Euros.”
YOUNGSTER Tony Watt made a sensational first start for Celtic with two goals in the league win over Motherwell on Sunday and could now face Rangers this weekend.
“He is definitely going to be in our thoughts,” said coach Johan Mjallby afterwards.
“If the boy comes on and scores twice for you in a very tough game against Motherwell then obviously he is going to be in our thoughts.
“We had Georgios Samaras out, Anthony Stokes didn’t get on, we have Mo Bangura, Pawel Brozek and Gary Hooper, so competition is there.
“But we have had our eyes on Tony for some time. He has done really well for the under-19s and the development team.
“He is a strong, powerful boy and obviously he likes to get into the box and score goals.
“We are delighted for him. The main thing is he has to keep his feet in the ground but the lad has a great future.”
Midfielder Joe Ledley applauded Watt’s full debut, and said there is more talent coming through the ranks at Parkhead.
“All the players and coaching staff are very pleased for him,” said Ledley. “He has a great future ahead of him, he is a goal scorer.
“He got his chance and took it with both hands so we are buzzing for him. And there is a lot like him. We have a good youth set-up at Celtic and that is the way forward.
“We still have Dylan McGeouch who wasn’t in the squad bur he is a great player. There is a lot of good future players at this club.”
Manager Neil Lennon began his two game touchline ban against Motherwell. Mjallby added, “You are always going to miss him because he is so passionate but the main thing was that we got back to winning ways.”
Rangers meanwhile have suspended Northern Ireland striker Kyle Lafferty for two weeks after a training ground bust-up with manager Ally McCoist.
The Scottish Football Association has also hit Rangers with a series of punishments, including a 12-month transfer embargo.
SLIGO stretched their lead at the top of the Airtricity Premier League when they won 1-0 away to Cork on Friday night. Shamrock Rovers were held to a 2-2 draw by hosts Bray, while St. Pats beat UCD 2-0.
Roddy Collins celebrated his return to Dalymount Park as Monaghan United beat Bohs 2-1. Dundalk won 2-1 away to Derry and Drogheda beat Shels 3-1.
In other news, Derry City and Crusaders have booked their places in the Setanta Cup final at the expense of Shamrock Rovers and Sligo Rovers respectively.
Irish boxer Adam Nolan wins gold