By Ronan Murphy
Noel King's first squad announcement on Monday put some distance between him and previous Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni, but despite the inclusion of Trapattoni exiles Darron Gibson, Andy Reid, and Anthony Stokes, he has not dramatically overhauled the team he inherited from the Italian.
Bringing in the likes of Gibson and Stokes, as well as the in-form Andy Reid gives King the opportunity to get the maximum points from the two matches, and shows that the 57-year-old is not afraid to put his own stamp on the side. It would have been easy for King to merely select the same squad members as Trapattoni, but he has shown his determination to succeed by bringing talented players back into the fold.
However, King's squad is not a sea-change from Trapattoni's, with no major exclusions from the panel who lost to Sweden and Austria in September. Favourites such as Glenn Whelan and Paul McShane are retained, although bench options Simon Cox, Conor Sammon, and Andy Keogh have been overlooked.
King has brought in Stokes to add firepower up front, but the inclusion of Kevin Doyle over Cox or Sammon is a mistep from the Ireland Under-21 manager. The 30-year-old striker has scored just one goal in the third tier for Wolverhampton Wanderers, and was rightly left out of Trapattoni's last few international squads.
Defender Darren O'Dea is also absent from King's 26-man selection, despite being a first team player at Metalurh Donetsk. The former Celtic defender was often pilloried by the media following his move to Major League Soccer, but is getting his career back on track in Ukraine, and would have provided cover for the suspended John O'Shea and Richard Dunne, who both miss the trip to Cologne.
King may have also missed a trick in not bringing any new players into the panel. There are no uncapped players in the squad despite King's experience with underage international football. The U21 side play two European Championship qualifiers with Romania, and King is probably reluctant to take some of the younger players for two dead rubber games with the senior team, however, there are players like Greg Cunningham or Aidy White who are now too old for the U21 team, and could benefit from being called into the senior squad.
However, King has made many positive changes to begin anew after the tenure of Trapattoni, with his pursuit of Stephen Ireland generating many headlines. In two weeks' time, King will be the subject of many more headlines, especially if his progressive squad can get off to a winning start against Germany.
The Republic of Ireland have played five games under temporary or interim managers since 1969 when Mick Meagan became the first proper boss of the Boys in Green. As temporary manager of the country, Sean Thomas, Alan Kelly Sr, and Don Givens all failed to win a single game. King is the man the Football Association of Ireland have tasked to bring that run to an end, and the Dubliner has his sights set on getting off to the perfect start in Ireland's top job.
King spoke of his aim to get two wins from October's World Cup qualifiers with Germany and Kazakhstan - a contrast to Trapattoni's usual assertion that four points from most international double-header. "It is a natural ambition to try to win every game and these two games should be no different," King told reporters. "There are always difficulties in achieving victories, but our 10 days in camp will be spent working together with a focus on doing so."
Ireland face Germany at the RheinEnergieStadion in Cologne on Friday October 11, before hosting Kazakhstan at the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday October 15.