Andy Reid: Trap wrong to say Ireland can't adapt formation
Returning exile reluctantly drawn on old foe as he insists team can change from rigid 4-4-2
It is that time of year again when football is all about promise and promises and when Andy Reid hopes a change in Ireland's management will yield a change of style.
Never an admirer of either Giovanni Trapattoni or his philosophy, Reid has deliberately considered diplomacy to be the cleverest tactic in dealing with his fallout with the Italian.
So, the media had to be devious to find out what Reid really makes of the departed Trapattoni – which is what happened yesterday when the Nottingham Forest player was asked about another tactic.
"It has been said the Irish can't adjust from 4-4-2 set-ups," Reid was told. Deliberately, he was not told that the only person who voiced this view was the man who called last orders on drinks at a hotel bar in Mainz five years ago and also on Reid's time in his squads. The Trap was set. And Reid walked and talked himself into it.
"Well, that idea is wide of the mark," he said. "Sure, the way football is now, not too many teams play 4-4-2 any more. Every player plays in different formations week in, week out for their club."
Yet even with the old reign over, and a new regime in place, Reid shied away from going down the point-scoring road yesterday – a stark contrast to the route Darron Gibson took two weeks ago.
Then Gibson was selling not just a product, but also his story. Having stored up his emotions for a year, after feeling wronged by Trapattoni at the Euros, the Everton midfielder spent two hours in our company speaking more openly and passionately than ever before.
But yesterday, the shield was up, a by-product of his Old Trafford days where players are schooled to be as guarded with their words as they are with a football. "It's good to be back," Gibson said. "There have been positive training sessions and the lads have been alright with me."
Even Paul Green?
"Myself and Paul get on well."
Two weeks ago, Gibson pre-fixed a point of view by issuing the words, 'no disrespect to Paul Green but ... ' – which, no matter how you look at it, was an obvious slight on the Leeds midfielder.
Some have argued that Gibson's self-imposed exile from the squad was another form of disrespect to his team-mates – yet he's back now, the fatted calf has been killed, a robe has been put on his back and a son that was lost, has been found.
And from an Irish perspective, that's a good thing, because the Derry man is much more expressive with his passing than he is with his words and come tomorrow night, he will more than likely be used in a five-man midfield to stifle Germany's threat. Whether there is also room for Reid remains open for discussion – with the Forest player likely to be held back for the Kazakhstan match.
If all this suggests a continuation of Reid's time in sporting purgatory then the 31-year-old doesn't view it as such. Five years on from his last trip to Germany, the Dubliner is relaxed about the week ahead. "There is a nice atmosphere around the place, a determination among us all to roll up our sleeves and have a go," he said.
"On a personal level, it has been a little bit strange after so long away, but everybody has welcomed me back in and I always enjoy meeting up with the squad. There was always a great camaraderie and a good feeling about the place and that remains the case now.
"But take aside everything – the lads coming back, myself coming back – the main focus has to be on the game. It would be easy to get wrapped up in all the other little bits and pieces that surround it, but it's about Germany."
But is it?
With Reid, Gibson, Anthony Stokes and Kevin Doyle – guys who were in danger of becoming members of a lost generation – returning to the fold, tomorrow's game can be viewed as a starting point.
Already, a new manager, albeit an interim one, is changing not just the tactical approach, but also the back-room set-up. "One thing I have noticed is that things are a lot more professional than maybe they have been in the past," said Reid "with our recovery drinks and all the different bits of nutritional stuff that goes with it. The medical staff have improved things vastly."
That was as close as Reid came to criticising Trapattoni – knowing there will be a time and a place to do so, but knowing also that managers falling out with players just comes with the territory in his working life.
After all, this is season number 14 in a career that has taken in six clubs, €13m in transfer fees and, after two days working with King, 19 different managers. He has seen enough to describe football in just one word.
"Cynical," he said. "That's the type of industry it is."
"The reality of the modern game," he told me in an interview a year ago, "is that a lot of players kid themselves into thinking their manager cares about them. They don't. Because once their time passes, they will be moved on."
Five years ago, Reid was moved sideways. But now he's back, hoping to prove something to this interim Irish manager and also the predecessor who discarded him. "I suppose there's a little bit of irony in the whole Germany thing popping up for this game for me," he said. "But look, I'm here to give a good account of myself, and that's what I have done."