Anthony Pilkington has reiterated his commitment to the Republic of Ireland ahead of Friday’s crucial FIFA World Cup Qualifier with Sweden.
The Norwich City man has had to withdraw from previous international squads on five occasions due to injury, drawing criticism in some quarters over his dedication to the country.
However, Pilkington has insisted his reasons for being unavailable were genuine.
“People need to realise that I had the injuries,” the 25-year-old said.
“Obviously I can see why people started talking, but I would have been no good to anybody. I wouldn’t be helping myself or my country.
“I was always committed. The first time I had to pull out, my bags were packed ready to come over. We had a morning game (for Norwich), we were due to fly out after the game and I got injured during the game.”
Friday’s meeting with Sweden represents the first part of a vital double-header for Giovanni Trapattoni’s side, with Republic of Ireland set to travel to Vienna to play Austria on Tuesday.
After six matches, Trapattoni’s men, Sweden and Austria all have 11 points in Group C and with Germany leading the way on 16 points, it seems likely that the trio are fighting it out for one of the eight play-off spots to reach Brazil 2014.
Sweden defender Andreas Granqvist is suspended for the match in Dublin, but Fulham midfielder Alex Kacaniklic is available after injury.
After Friday’s game, Erik Hamren’s side travel to Kazakhstan and the coach is well aware of the challenges his side are set to face.
“It will be a tough match away to Ireland,” he said.
“They are hard to beat. Kazakhstan will also be a tough match. They would have beaten Ireland but for two late goals, and Austria drew 0-0 there.”
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