Soccer

Tuesday 29 July 2014

12 things Trapattoni has learned in 2012

Daniel McDonnell

Published 16/11/2012|05:00

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IT is impossible for Giovanni Trapattoni to reflect on 2012 without a reference to 15 minutes of madness in Poznan.

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From his standpoint, the chaotic opening to the showdown with Croatia changed everything.

Marco Tardelli's laughable suggestion that it had been a "fantastic" 12 months was met with derision by a perplexed public and some former players, and Trapattoni knew better than to trumpet such an unrealistic tune when asked for his verdict on a crowded year which featured 12 matches.

He did, however, suggest that bad luck had played a large part in the five defeats. Wednesday's loss to Greece is the only one of those where Ireland failed to get the rub of the green; in the others, they were patently outclassed. The great escape in Kazakhstan far outranks any friendly woes.

Despite the initial nod to poor fortune, the 73-year-old acknowledged that the weight of expectation contributed significantly to the Polish failings, and hinted at a need for greater composure in the crucial year lying over the horizon.

With his own future secure for the time being after the attempted heave last month, the integration of younger players has added intrigue to his plans for 2013.

Will it be the same old Trap, or will some of the lessons from this year be taken on board?

YOUTH IS ESSENTIAL

Trapattoni brought the oldest squad to the Euros, and they looked it in the course of three games where they were given the runaround by teams that were superior on every level.

It was such a difficult group that any Irish crop would have struggled, but the lethargy derived from the realisation that some key players were either reaching the end of the road or burdened by injury problems that rendered them ineffective. There was no spark, no burst of energy to bring the team to life.

SEAMUS COLEMAN

IS THE FUTURE

Imagine if the Donegal lad had been present in Poland to provide that inspiration. Admittedly, there was minimal outcry when the Everton man missed the cut, considering that he endured a difficult second half to the 2011/12 season and was mainly deployed in a midfield role at Everton.

However, Trapattoni has never been afraid to opt for players out of form, and knew what Coleman is capable of from seeing him on the training ground.

Time has made it a poor decision, but the autumn resurgence means we now have another top full-back in our ranks.

REPLACING DAMIEN DUFF IS DIFFICULT

Hardly an original suggestion, but perhaps it's proving a lot harder than management envisaged.

Richard Dunne was the main priority when the prospect of a quadruple retirement was floated post-Poznan. Trapattoni failed to go and speak with Duff before he made the decision to call it quits. While the player said his mind was made up, there will be always be a niggling doubt.

With Simon Cox preferred on the left wing for the opening two qualifiers, Trapattoni would probably shed blood to get the Fulham man back. But the moment has passed.

JAMES McCARTHY

IS WORTH THE HYPE

The Wigan midfielder has been saddled with high hopes since his teenage years and his controversial switch from Scotland. His assimilation into the Trapattoni regime has proved a slow burner, but the ban that ruled Keith Andrews out of Kazakhstan has allowed the 22-year-old to develop.

His Irish displays have fallen short of his club outings, yet the raw materials are there to bring a more assured presence to the heart of the midfield.

DARRON GIBSON

IS WORTH REVISITING

We can never have too many options, and Gibson is another who can bring competition for places. In January, there was a huge question mark over his aptitude for the Premier League when Alex Ferguson allowed him to join Everton. The Derry native has proven that he can cut it at the top level with a string of consistent displays for his employers.

He just needs to build bridges with Trap and bring that confidence to the Irish fold for the first time.

JAMES McCLEAN

NEEDS TIME TO GROW

The clamour to call up the Sunderland winger was understandable given how he took the Premier League by storm at the beginning of the calendar year.

Unquestionably, he deserved longer involvement in the Euros with the momentum he generated, while his central deployment in Serbia gave him little chance to shine. Still, the manner in which he reacted to his Kazakhstan exclusion hinted at immaturity and he's found it hard with his club this term too. He's got a way to go.

WES HOOLAHAN

CAN OFFER A PLAN B

It is criminal that Hoolahan only represented his country on home turf for the first time on Wednesday. There is something wrong when a player with that talent has to wait until he is in his 30s before reaching that sphere.

Trapattoni has ruled out starting Hoolahan in Sweden, confirming that he will stick with two up front. Nevertheless, he concedes that the Norwich man can bring something to the squad, and the presence of the playmaker on the bench opens the door to mid-game rotation.

MARC WILSON

IS OUR BEST LEFT-BACK

Stephen Ward found the going tough in the Euros and while he was often outnumbered, it stressed the need to bring in an alternative who was available all along.

Last January, Trapattoni wrongly said that Wilson was out of his thoughts due to a disciplinary issue. Once a case of mistaken identity was resolved, the path was clear for a slow reconciliation.

In the Faroes, the Stoke man's intervention turned the tide. He must continue once his leg problem heals.

LIFE WITHOUT RICHARD DUNNE IS NOT SO TERRIFYING ANYMORE

Okay, so it's early days yet in Ciaran Clark's international journey, and he is a different kind of player to his Aston Villa colleague.

Nevertheless, in the fallout from Poland, imagining life without Dunne was terrifying.

The centre-half picture is a little rosier now, with Clark filling his boots at club level and making a good impression.

With Coleman at right-full, John O'Shea is vying for inclusion in the heart of the defence, while Sean St Ledger was doing well with promotion-contending Leicester before injury struck.

There are options if Dunne's recovery is delayed.

NOR IS IT WItHOUT ROBBIE KEANE

He was there when it mattered in the final minutes in Astana, so there's huge value in having the LA Galaxy striker around the squad, even if his guaranteed place in the starting XI proved an issue in Poland and is an obstacle to a proper formation switch.

The bigger picture is the emergence of Shane Long, a form player in the Premier League who is capable of stepping up to lead the next generation.

With Doyle, Walters, Cox and also Noel Hunt, there is a strength in depth, if not a talent in the class of the country's record goalscorer.

A SHARP 'KEEPER

IS PARAMOUNT

After an interrupted preparation, Shay Given's errors in the Euros made for difficult viewing, merely emphasising how the smallest weakness can be exposed when mixing with the best.

In that context, Keiren Westwood's lack of match sharpness is a concern. Trapattoni cannot afford to enter the business end of the World Cup race with a netminder who is short of peak condition.

GOING TO GAMES ACTUALLY HELPS

There is a school of thought which says that Trapattoni is better off at home because there is nothing new he can learn about players he has watched once or twice.

He joked yesterday that his wife complains that the television is tuned to football all the time when she would prefer to tune into something else.

On Sunday, the Ireland boss explained that his trip to Wigan versus West Brom 24 hours earlier had allowed him to witness improvement in Long's general play that he would discuss with the player.

With a trip to Norwich speeding Hoolahan's revival, the benefit of regular trips to England is an obvious part of keeping on top of the job Trapattoni is paid to do.

Irish Independent

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