Pilkington can be a gem for club and country

Posted by Paddy Davitt

Jamie McDonald/Getty ImagesAnthony Pilkington's strike against Bury was another example of his quality.

Anthony Pilkington underlined in Norwich City's 6-3 Capital One Cup victory over Bury Tuesday why he is such a valuable commodity for club and country.

The attacking midfielder capped his first competitive outing of a summer disrupted by fresh injury concerns with a classy goal and a shift that illustrated why Nathan Redmond is likely to remain his chief back-up for the foreseeable future.

Redmond is the future if he continues his stellar rise, but Pilkington is Norwich’s present, and there is plenty more to come from the Lancastrian. Pilkington’s recent career path has been defined by hamstring and knee problems which have checked his impressive elevation to the Premier League after being fast-tracked from League One in 2010.

The 25-year-old's importance should be measured in the void left when manager Chris Hughton is unable to call on his services. Pilkington is a key component within the template Hughton imposed on his arrival at the club last season to help retain the Canaries’ top flight status. He will remain a vital dimension in any concerted attempts at Premier League expansion.

The intelligent midfielder offers genuine attacking thrust and cool precision in the final third with a willingness to track back and accept his defensive duties as an auxiliary full-back. There was ample evidence of both Tuesday against the League Two Shakers at Carrow Road.

It is no wonder Ireland boss Giovanni Trapattoni has developed a strange fascination with Pilkington bordering on the obsessive. The English-bred, Irish-qualified Pilkington still awaits his senior international debut after being forced to withdraw from the Italian's previous four squads this calendar year.

Pilkington has again been included in a provisional 29-man list for upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria early next month and Trapattoni was prepared to publicly concede at his latest squad announcement that Pilkington could even feature.

That is a substantial leap of faith in a player the hugely experienced managerial titan has never seen once on the training pitches of Malahide let alone in competitive action for the Irish. Trapattoni and assistant Marco Tardelli were regular visitors to Carrow Road last season. They clearly see a man with the technical gifts and the tactical nous to flourish on the international stage.

Injury is the one imponderable that has frustratingly stunted Pilkington's development these past 12 months. The Premier League has seemingly been conquered, if you measure the midfielder’s personal contribution to ensuring Norwich retain their top-flight status since arriving from Huddersfield three summers ago. The circumstantial evidence points to a similar seamless transition to the international fold.

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