Two Premier League options to potentially come into the fray.
Ireland have two World Cup qualifiers coming up next month, one against Portugal at home and the other against Luxembourg away. Stephen Kenny knows that his team can no longer qualify for the tournament, but he will be hoping to carry the momentum from the last two games into the next.
The most recent international break was definitely Kenny’s best, with the team winning 3-0 away against Azerbaijan and then at home against Qatar.
As a result, the players who were involved in these two games will definitely have the edge over others when it comes to getting picked in the team.
However, a duo at Southampton could start to give Kenny a headache over the coming weeks – that is Shane Long and Will Smallbone.
We all know what we’re going to get from Shane Long at this point. His energy is incredible, he doesn’t give defenders a second on the ball, and he will win an awful lot of headers.
Plus, for a man who is now 34 years of age, he still gets around the pitch quite well, and is definitely a worthy option off the bench.
We don’t think he’s going to be troubling Callum Robinson or Adam Idah for a place in the Starting XI, but a lot of Ireland fans would be happier seeing him come off the bench than James Collins. Kenny will definitely be weighing his options up.
Will Smallbone at just 21 is one of the most exciting prospects this country has. His passing ability and excellent vision is something that this country infamously lacks.
Smallbone was in the process of breaking into Southampton’s first team when he suffered a horrific injury, which kept him out for 283 days.
🎙️ “Well that is as good as it gets, that is so clinical!"
Danny Ings brings up his 20th goal of the season to put #SaintsFC in front!
— Sky Sports Premier League (@SkySportsPL) June 28, 2020
He is now back, and while he missed a penalty against Chelsea on his return on Tuesday night (Long scored his, by the way), he could be the bit of creativity we need in midfield, or at least provide some competition for Jamie McGrath. A nice problem for Stephen Kenny to have.
After 283 days it felt good to put the shirt back on again! Sorry about the penalty will come back stronger!! Thank you for your support! 🙌❤️ pic.twitter.com/8lJ6Jbg27Y
— Will Smallbone (@WSmallbone) October 26, 2021
Shane Long and Will Smallbone
Next up for the Saints is a trip to Watford, and while neither of the above will be expected to start, it will be interesting to see whether either makes a strong impression off the bench, and what way that could impact Kenny’s thinking.