Martin O’Neill’s search for a striker has led him to an unlikely source. The Ireland manager has spoken of his eagerness to find more options up front following the retirement of Robbie Keane.
The Irish Daily Star (via the Irish Independent) have reported that O’Neill will attempt to encourage Lukas Jutkiewicz to switch allegiances to Ireland.
The striker’s inclusion could soften the huge blow of Robbie Keane’s retirement and provide the Irish manager with an alternative option in the goalscoring department.
Last week Jutkiewicz completed a permanent move to Birmingham from Burnley. The Premier League club picked up a fee of £1 million for the forward who has scored six Championship goals since joining the Blues on loan.
Unfortunately he did not enjoy the same run of form with Burnley, failing to score in his 32 league appearances for the Clarets.
Jutkiewicz is a well-travelled striker, who has enjoyed spells at Middlesbrough, Coventry, Everton and Swindon. Although he is not overly prolific, he is a physical striker who links up well with his midfielders. He is also a danger in the air with all his six league goals this season coming from headers.
O’Neill could see the Birmingham striker as a good option going forward. At 27, Jutkiewicz is already younger than any of the frontmen selected for Ireland’s last game against Austria, with Adam Rooney aged 28. It would certainly present Ireland with a wider pool of forwards to choose from, an area that is certainly at a worryingly low number.
However, Ireland could face competition for Jutkiewicz’s services. Not only does he qualify for England but also the Polish national team. Although Poland have yet to show any concrete interest in the striker, the thoughts of partnering Robert Lewandowski could be extremely appealing. Thankfully for Ireland, Poland are better stocked in the attacking department.
With question marks looming over Scott Hogan’s interest in playing for Ireland, Jutkiewicz could be a possible alternative. O’Neill has suggested in recent weeks that he will hold further talks with the player and his agent over the Christmas period.
Despite teammate Alan Judge claiming (via Newstalk) Hogan will declare for Ireland, little evidence has come from the player himself.
With an answer to come from Hogan, a possible declaration from Jutkiewicz would increase Ireland’s striking options.
With other players like Patrick Bamford and Will Keane also eligible, O’Neill could end up with a selection headache up front having made do with low numbers in the position since taking over as Ireland boss.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena