Stephen Kenny has defended Republic of Ireland striker Callum Robinson, after he revealed he hadn't been vaccinated against COVID-19.
The West Brom man made the admission during his press conference earlier this week ahead of the World Cup qualifier away to Azerbaijan.
Robinson is part of the squad who train at the Baku Olympic Stadium on Friday night, with his manager insisting the episode has not been a distraction.
Virus-related reasons have seen the 26-year old miss eight of the last thirteen Ireland games, including last month's narrow defeat away to Portugal.
But speaking ahead of Saturday's game, Kenny said Robinson had no regrets about his candour.
"What I can say about Callum Robinson," the boss offered, "is that he's such a popular member of the squad. He's a breath of fresh air.
"He always comes in with a smile on his face. He's infectious. He brings laughter to the dressing room. People love him.
"He has great qualities as a man, great qualities as a human being.
"He has attracted a lot of criticism because he just came into a press conference where the vast majority of players refuse to answer the questions - he was open and transparent.
"He has been vilified for it.
"But he is a terrific person, and I think all of the players would verify that. They really speak so well of him. He's a very, very popular member of the squad."
Kenny revealed that both Adam Idah and Jason Knight will both train on Friday evening, having been confined to their rooms on Thursday with a fever.
Neither player has COVID-19, but the manager couldn't say if either would be fit enough to start the game with Azerbaijan.
Illness may have tempered Kenny's preparations for a big game for the umpteenth time, but he claims that Robinson's vaccine stance has not.
"Not in the slightest," he said, without wanting to delve into players' individual medical decisions.
Kenny told OTB Sports, "I'm not going to elaborate on every individual's private reasons.
"I don't know the full extent of everyone's reasons... some of them have valid reasons, some of them have beliefs.
"But a vast majority of players are vaccinated. It's not been a factor, and it hasn't dominated then conversation in the camp because we've been very focused on trying to win the game.
"I under stand Callum - for being up-front and honest - has been vilified, in fact, but he's a breath of fresh air in hour squad. Everybody speaks so highly of him - a very popular member of the squad.
"He's determined to do well. It's well documented now that he's missed a number of games, so I think he's determined to grasp that opportunity and do himself justice.
"He is no doubt one of our better attacking players, and looking forward to getting on the pitch and doing well tomorrow."
Kenny said Robinson understands the reaction, but has been purely focused on Saturday's game with Azerbaijan.