Harry Arter urges Martin O'Neill to trust him for Austria clash
HARRY Arter has urged Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill to trust in his talents ahead of this Saturday's World Cup qualifier in Austria.
In an exclusive interview with the Sunday World, Arter has laid out his case to make his first competitive start for Ireland, as he has suggested this week's training sessions will be his final audition in his bid to play in Vienna.
With Everton's James McCarthy ruled out of the crunch Group D clash against the Austrians, Arter would appear to be a natural replacement after a series of sparkling performances in the Premier League this season.
Yet the in-form 26-year-old accepts he needs to prove he is ready to break into O'Neill's settled side, after he was surprisingly left on the bench for Ireland’s opening World Cup qualifier against Serbia.
"There are a lot of players in the Ireland squad who have been part of the set-up for a lot longer than me and the manager has trust in them," begins Arter.
"The reality is that the boss doesn't know me as well as he does a lot of the players and it's up to me to gain his trust and force my way into the team.
"There is competition to get into the Ireland midfield and, while I have been a bit frustrated not to play in a competitive game so far, part of the reason for that is the injuries I have had around Ireland matches in the last year or so.
"I have not made a competitive appearance for Ireland and the manager has a lot of players who have more experience than me at this level, but I feel ready to make the step up now.
"It can't do me any harm to be playing in the Premier League every week and the performances I have put in this season have probably been the best of my career.
"So if I get a chance to start for Ireland, I feel confident that I'll be ready for that.
"Now I need to convince the manager that I should be in his team and I'm looking forward to going over and giving my all in the training sessions ahead of the Austria game."
Arter's upbeat appraisal of his position in O'Neill's pecking order is commendable, as it would have been easy for the Bournemouth star to feel more than a little unwanted following his snub from the Ireland management during the Serbia game in September.
O'Neill's decision to throw Reading's Stephen Quinn into the fray ahead of Arter as Ireland went in search of a late leveller in Belgrade was a baffling decision, as he overlooked a Premier League star in favour of a bench-warmer plying his trade in English football's second tier.
It was a decision that highlighted the barriers Arter needs to overcome as he bids to break into O'Neill's inner circle, yet the moment for pontificating over this issue needs to be ended by the Ireland boss next weekend.
O'Neill's reluctance to put his faith in Bournemouth's star man sparked rumours that he may switch his international allegiances to England, yet that story should never have been given the air space it commanded last month.
Arter revealed to the Sunday World that he was "shocked" by the abuse he received on social media as rumours of a potential England switch gathered pace last month, even though he never gave any hint that he was considering a switch of allegiance.
No-one should question Arter’s passionate desire to be an Ireland regular and now he should be embraced by a management team lacking quality options in a side that has come under fire in the last few months, despite encouraging results.
Ireland could head into international football's winter break as group leaders if a positive result can be manufactured in Vienna, with Arter suggesting the criticism of the Ireland team has been misplaced.
"To have seven points from our first three matches is a great start and if we can get a positive result in this game, we will be in a great position in this group.
"Wales failed to beat Georgia last month and Austria lost in Serbia, so those results showed that our results so far have been impressive.
"Maybe some people need to have a bit of perspective on what is realistic for this Ireland team and I have never got the impression that our fans are negative towards the team.
"The atmosphere among the fans before and during Euro 2016 was fantastic and everyone should remember what big wins can do for the country. Let's all be positive about what this team can achieve."
While the dream of playing in the World Cup finals in Irish green still seems distant for Arter, he is daring to cast an eye to an appearance at Russia 2018.
"I have never really thought about playing in a World Cup, but I suppose we should have that ambition in our minds," he adds.
"From my perspective, I have a lot of hard work to do to get into this Ireland team.
"But you look at the results in this qualifying group so far and we should be aiming high.
"This Ireland squad showed in the Euros that we can compete with some of the top teams when we are at our best and there's no reason why we cannot come through this group."
Ireland fans should now hope that O'Neill finally finds a place in his plans for the potential game-changer he has, so far, ignored.
If Arter doesn't start in Austria, the Ireland manager's judgement should be questioned like never before.