Former Republic of Ireland international Ray Houghton believes James McClean could force his way in Giovanni Trapattoni’s starting XI for the opening Euro 2012 game with Croatia. 

McClean was named in the 23-man squad on Monday after a fantastic season in the Premier League with Sunderland following his move from Derry City. The former Liverpool man feels the Irish boss made the right decision with the selection. 

Houghton told RTÉ’s Damien O’Meara: “It was the right decision but obviously it was a tough one because there were other players that had been around the squad for a number of games. Maybe they felt they should have been part of it but I think it is the right choice in the sense that you are picking players on form.

“James McClean is play as well as anyone in that position and his opportunity is here. He is not one of the future any more. That term is gone now for him. It is here and now and he is in there on merit. It is up to him to train hard between now and the start of the campaign and when he is away with the team to show the manager what he can do. 

“Managers can be influenced by what they see in training. If you’re on fire in training and getting on the ball the manager will be keeping an eye on you and if you can show him what you can do you wouldn’t even be put off by the fact he might be in the starting XI.”

James McCarthy withdrew his availability for the squad after his father was diagnosed with cancer. Houghton supports the 21-year-old’s decision and backed him, as Trapattoni did in the press conference, to play a big role for the Republic in the future.

He said: “I’ve been through it recently myself so I know first hand what he is going through. You just have to do what it is right for yourself at the moment and football takes a back seat in situations like this and you just wish him and his family well.

“They are tough times, I know what it is like and really you just have to get your head down and get through it as best you can. He will come back stronger from it. He’ll be more determined I’m sure to get to another major final. He has missed out on this occasion but I’m sure there will be plenty more in years to come for him.”