With Striker

THE Irish soccer world is absolutely buzzing this week, following our national team’s outstanding qualifying performance in the race for next summer’s European Championship.

This latest development makes up in no small way for successive disappointments in recent years, both in the World Cup and European Tournaments, which have been well documented by the media in general.

The current team, under Trappatoni, while not burning up the pitches with scintillating football, have nevertheless shown a distinct resilience in the art of keeping their goal line intact, having indeed had many clean sheets for the duration of the qualification series.

So, on we go, and between now and next summer, the Trappatoni management team will have many opportunities to delve into the undoubted talent of the many young players who are, as they say, on the fringe of the settled panel, and trying hard to break into the main stream of international football.

With this in mind, our never-say-die followers can look forward to some stirring days, bringing back again the memories of the Jack Charlton times, when we became a major player on the world stage.

The race for the English Premiership goes on apace, with Man City showing the way, five points clear of Man Utd, with Newcastle, proving to be the find of the season, in third place, with Chelsea, Spurs, Liverpool, and Arsenal close up.

I do believe that this season’s title race will be the closest for a long time, with the Christmas period as usual giving a distinct pointer as to where it could all end up.

This Saturday sees Man City at home to Newcastle, which could be the game of the weekend.

Man Utd pay a visit to Swansea City, and could find it difficult, as the Swans home record stands up with the best. On Sunday, Chelsea are at home to Liverpool, with the Blues just favourite to nick this one.

All in all, the Premiership now has a much better look about it, with, for the first time in many years, teams other than the usual suspects, looking like getting into the final shake-up for Premiership honours.