STEPHEN HUNT HAS revealed his heartbreak at missing out on game time at Euro 2012 and admitted that he, as a typical footballer, is jealous of the attention that James McClean received last season.
Hunt, speaking on Off the Ball last night, gave a frank insight into his feelings about the current state of Irish football, his battle to regain favour with manager Giovanni Trapattoni and the bright future he predicts for Shane Long.
The Wolves midfielder is currently recovering from hip surgery but is hopeful for a footballing return in mid January.
Hunt felt he would have started ‘some of the games and I’ll probably come on in the others’ at Euro 2012 but players such as Simon Cox and McClean were preferred as impact players when Trapattoni’s grand scheme faltered.
The Waterford native recovered from injury to make the 23-man squad and felt he was ready to make a positive contribution after ‘waiting all my life’ or such an opportunity.
He said, “To not have played in those last three games, the most important games, was heartbreaking. It’s taken me awhile to get over it.
“Really and truly, I was hungover and didn’t feel very good going back to pre-season training. I didn’t really have much attitude towards it.”
Down the pecking order
Hunt declared that the one aspect of the European Championships that he was still struggling with concerned Cox, a striker, coming on in midfield as Ireland chased a 3-1 deficit against Croatia.
He commented, “Every game that I’ve played for Ireland over the last three or four years we’ve generally been level or in front.” Hunt added:
We don’t normally go behind in games so he sees Simon Cox as a player who is going to get a goal back instead of keeping the score 0-0 or one or two-nil to us. I understand where he’d coming from.
“He could be right or he could be wrong. I set up goals and I don’t doubt my own ability I respect the manager.”
Hunt admitted his frustration at having to tread the lonely road back to fitness while players such as McClean and Robbie Brady grab the limelight.
“Footballers are jealous,” he said.
I don’t want James McClean getting all the attention like he did last year. I want all the attention. That’s the way footballers think. I don’t want to be seeing him do well. I do, but I want to do well myself.
“I want to be doing better than him, I want to be doing better than Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady. When they’re getting the limelight I’m not too happy.”
Hunt on McClean at Euro 2012: He was on fire so he probably did deserve to play and do well. (©INPHO/James Crombie)
Befriending Trap and Long’s future
Hunt, in a wide-ranging interview, listed off occasions that he approached Trapattoni with concerns about a lack of playing time but added that the Italian was always willing to share his viewpoint.
He feels that personal relationships do not sway the Irish manager. Hunt said:
He’s ruthless, he’s been successful all his career. He doesn’t get attached, he never picks the team that you think is going to be the team. He sees different things and that’s the way he is.
“It’s why he has been successful and why everybody will keep on questioning him – because he’ll always do what he thinks is best for the team.”
The form of Hunt’s international colleague Shane Long has led to speculation about a move in the January transfer window.
He said, “[Shane] has matured into a player that is good enough to go on and play now for a top three or four club. He is at his prime and is well capable of causing defenders hassle in the lone role, which suits him.
“In January, I think Pat Dolan, who is his agent, will be keen to get him the move he deserves so we’ll see what happens with him.”
*Additional reporting from Ben Blake.