Italy glamour friendly puts Morrison in shop window

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The Independent Online

When the Republic of Ireland run out at Lansdowne Road tonight for their prestigious friendly against Italy, some of the players will not have "for sale" stamped on their shirts - but they may as well have.

Chief among them is striker Clinton Morrison who yesterday declared that he will be "out of the door, definitely" at Birmingham City before the transfer window closes. "You have to keep going and wait for your chance but if it's not going to come I'm not prepared to be sitting on the bench," Morrison said.

The 26-year-old, who joined Birmingham for £4.25m three years ago, knows he has fallen down the pecking order at St Andrews with the arrival of Mikael Forssell and Walter Pandiani. And although he insisted he was not going to "start slagging anyone else", Morrison added: "Last season I came in, played up front with [Emile] Heskey, built a good partnership, scored goals and after two or three games when we didn't score I was out of the team again.

"You don't want to be playing for Ireland and doing well and scoring goals and helping the team qualify and then it comes to the World Cup and you don't play because you haven't been playing club football.

"At the moment I'm not enjoying my football because it's hard to come off the bench for two minutes and make an impact."

Morrison intimated that "something was happening pretty soon" with a particular club. The keenest interest in him has come from Sheffield United. Although Charlton Athletic and Portsmouth are looking for another striker, their targets are elsewhere.

Morrison would jump at the chance to join former Ireland manager Mick McCarthy at Sunderland - but although the Premiership newcomers are interested, they do not have the money for his fee - with Birmingham seeking £2m - or the money for his wages. "But I wouldn't rule that out," Morrison said.

His frustration was clear. "Every time I pull on a green jersey for Ireland and then I go back to Birmingham they say 'you should wear a green jersey as you are always scoring goals and playing well in one'," Morrison said. "I say 'that's because I'm playing with better players there'."

After the laughter had subsided on that one, Morrison agreed that playing the Italians will "put me in the shop window". Alongside him will be left-back Ian Harte who is seeking a move back to England after being told he can leave Spanish club Levante following their relegation from the Primera Liga. The 28-year-old said that Levante had lowered their asking price of €3m (£2.1m). "My agent says that clubs are only looking to spend that sort of money on centre-forwards," Harte said.

Earlier in the summer he was linked with Blackburn Rovers, while Harte said it was "every young Irish lad's dream" to play for Celtic. "We'll have to see what happens," he said.

Ireland manager Brian Kerr admitted that rather than clubs asking him to use their players sparingly "they have said to play them, maybe that's an indication that they're not going to play them". Into that category also falls Sunderland's 21-year-old striker Stephen Elliott who may play instead of the injured Robbie Keane, who is aware Tottenham Hotspur could let him go. They are considering a bid for Feyenoord's Dirk Kuyt and remain interested in Newcastle's Jermaine Jenas. Another under pressure is Liverpool's Steve Finnan, with Benfica's Miguel a potential target.

The match is Ireland's warm-up for the vital World Cup qualifier next month against France with the Italians due to meet Scotland.

Marcello Lippi's squad arrived in Dublin last night without the injured Gianluigi Buffon, Francesco Totti and Mauro Camoranesi while striker Antonio Cassano has been excluded. The rehabilitated Alessandro Del Piero may make his first start for 11 months.

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND (probable, 4-4-2): Given (Newcastle United); Finnan (Liverpool), Cunningham (Birmingham City), Dunne (Manchester City), Harte (Levante); Reid (Tottenham Hotspur), Holland (Charlton Athletic), Kilbane (Everton), Duff (Chelsea); Morrison (Birmingham), Elliott (Sunderland).

ITALY (probable, 4-3-3): De Sanctis (Udinese); Zaccardo (Palermo), Nesta (Milan), Cannavaro, Zambrotta (both Juventus); De Rossi (Roma), Gattuso, Pirlo; Gilardino, Vieri (all Milan), Del Piero (Juventus).

Referee: P Costa (Portugal).

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