Byline: CATHAL DERVAN
LEE CARSLEY made his intentions as crystal clear as the Pacific Ocean that awaited the Republic of Ireland's World Cup squad when they finally touched down in the Far East yesterday.
The Everton midfielder - the last man into Mick McCarthy's 23 in some people's books - is not along for the ride.
He has not come to Saipan ahead of the final leg of the journey to Japan to "make up the numbers" after edging Celtic's Colin Healy out of the central midfield frame.
Laid-back Carsley gets animated when it comes to the subject of his World Cup involvement.
And he says: "I am annoyed at suggestions that I am not here on merit and that I have almost gatecrashed the World Cup.
"I believe I deserve to be here. I have been part of the squad for the last five years, a participating member of the squad, and the only thing that held me back in the qualifying campaign was injury.
"But for a bad run of injuries, I would have been more involved and there would have no questions raised about my involvement.
"I am not along just for the ride. I'm here to do my bit for Ireland's World Cup bid.
"I have never taken Ireland for granted or seen myself as a bit player. If that was the case I wouldn't be here now. I would not waste Mick's time or my own time by just making up the numbers.
"I believe I've a role to play with this squad and I believe I've been given that chance on merit."
Carsley, back in the Premiership after a mid-season move from struggling Coventry, even has a message for Mattie Holland and Mark Kinsella as he looks to edge up the pecking order.
The former Derby and Blackburn schemer has seen his first-team spot with Ireland challenged by those two and knocked back by a series of injuries over the last two years.
But he is adamant that his fitness worries are behind him now. And he has a point to prove to McCarthy and himself over the coming weeks .
"I am the first to admit that I will never displace Roy Keane in the Irish midfield - I don't think anyone will for some time to come," he said.
"He is the best player in the world in the position and the rest of us are competing for the chance to act as Roy's partner. …