Football: Charlton experiments for the future

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JACK CHARLTON named a Republic of Ireland side yesterday that smacked of experimentation for a target two years away rather than one beginning serious preparation for the World Cup finals in three months' time. Circumstances dictate that against Russia this afternoon three players will win their first caps.

Foremost among the new set is Jason McAteer, who has fashioned a reputation as a midfield force during Bolton's FA Cup journey and passed up the opportunity to play for England by pledging his allegiance to the Irish. Joining him as the least experienced half of a seriously inexperienced defence are the Leeds teenager, Gary Kelly, and Coventry's versatile Phil Babb.

Only Pat Bonner and Eddie McGoldrick survive from the team who started a taut but ultimately triumphant night in Belfast last November which secured for them a working summer in America.

It is not what Charlton wanted for the first of five friendly internationals before they depart and he admits it goes 'totally against every principle I have in the game. I look at the situation and I shake my head. I am doing things I never dreamed I would do but I have no choice.' Already without his mainstays from Manchester United and Aston Villa because of Sunday's Coca-Cola Cup final, Charlton's resources were further depleted yesterday when Alan Kernaghan was ruled out with a hamstring strain. It left him to name a defensive four with only 11 caps between them and nine of those owned by McGoldrick, who is playing out of position at left-back.

On the positive side it gives an opportunity for some to emerge and win an invitation to Charlton's World Cup party. He says he has 'maybe 13' definite names in mind already with nine places still to play for.

'We will see whether they can take responsibility and whether they can be of use to us in the future,' Charlton added. 'Ideally I would have liked to play McAteer alongside Roy Keane and Babb alongside Paul McGrath, but I can't. There is nobody to prop the young lads up and they must shoulder a lot of responsibility.'

Returning are several players who have become used to a peripheral role, among them Ronnie Whelan, who will probably captain the side, Liam O'Brien and David Kelly. Another, Tony Cascarino, has the chance to impress and attract a new club after Chelsea indicated their willingness to release him before tomorrow's transfer deadline.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Bonner (Celtic); G Kelly (Leeds), Babb (Coventry), Carey (Leicester), McGoldrick (Arsenal), McAteer (Bolton), O'Brien (Tranmere), Whelan (Liverpool), McLoughlin (Portsmouth), D Kelly (Wolves), Cascarino (Chelsea).

Jimmy Quinn, Reading's 34- year-old striker, will lead Northern Ireland's attack in the friendly against Romania at Windsor Park, Belfast, today. The manager, Byran Hamilton will operate a 4-4-2 system in an attempt to keep a firm grip on the Romanians, who are using this game as part of their World Cup preparations. Mal Donaghy (Chelsea) will occupy a centre-back role alongside Gerry Taggart (Barnsley), with Gerry Fleming (Barnsley) and Stephen Morrow (Arsenal) as full-backs.