Another one bites the dust
Trapattoni bemused after Gibson tests uneasy relationship by citing groin injury for Ireland no-show
ANOTHER one bites the dust. This time, there was no anger from Giovanni Trapattoni. Just bemusement.
His relationship with Darron Gibson could hardly be described as straightforward. Trapattoni has never been reluctant to offer the opinion that the Manchester United man might benefit from a move away from the Old Trafford periphery.
The 72-year-old believes that Gibson could do with a bit of toughening up. Last autumn, the Derry lad suggested that his international manager was "having a laugh" if he thought he should walk away from one of the world's biggest clubs.
In his own way, Trapattoni gave the impression yesterday that he believes Gibson is having a laugh with the excuse offered for his withdrawal from the squad for Saturday's trip to Macedonia.
Gibson didn't make the bench for Saturday's Champions League final, and subsequently sent a message to the Irish camp to say that he was struggling with a groin problem and was unavailable.
Trapattoni appears to consider a groin problem to be football equivalent of 'the dog ate my homework'. His scepticism was obvious as he spoke with newspaper reporters in a shed at Malahide's Gannon Park, taking shelter from the rain.
"Gibson has sent us an SMS," he said. "It's his groin. In the world, it is always groin. Ball is ball."
Had he asked for the player to come over and be assessed? Last week, Trapattoni was furious that the likes of James McCarthy and Marc Wilson didn't come to Dublin to prove they were really suffering.
"No, no," said Trapattoni, before expanding on his theory about groin injuries. "In Italy, when you don't know, its groin.
"It's the new disease. It's always groin! It's impossible to look. Where is groin? You have to understand that I have 40 years in football. I worked with doctors in Italy, Germany, Portugal. All players are a little bit the same. 'Doctor, where is the injury?' 'Groin.' Groin is okay if there is the injury."
Trapattoni then went on to speak about the issue of communication. It wasn't exactly clear what his specific point was.
"We have doctor. With doctor, speak 48 hours before. Not 24 hours before. It's for respect, for you, the media. Okay, the coach can look at other players. Twenty Four hours before send the SMS, the doctor, the injury is groin. That is our little problem, but it's not a problem."
Clear? It doesn't read that way, but with Trapattoni the context is his demeanour. Last Monday, he was animated, clearly upset and bothered by developments. This was more a shrug of the shoulders. In a prior briefing with TV and radio reporters, he had neglected to even mention Gibson. He wasn't in his thoughts.
Of course, Manchester United are a different animal to Wigan and Stoke. Paul Doolin's superb achievement in steering Ireland to the U-19 European Championships was all the more impressive given that his star player, Robbie Brady, was unavailable due to club commitments at Old Trafford -- revolving around Gary Neville's testimonial.
Technically, the FAI could have contested it because the Irish youths were involved in competitive matches, but decided against it. Probably a wise course of action if they want to get Alex Ferguson to bring them back for another money-spinning friendly somewhere down the line.
But that's all a sideshow to Gibson's uneasy standing with Trapattoni. In truth, the midfielder should probably be concerned that his international manager doesn't seem too perturbed that he will miss the trip to Skopje.
There had been encouraging signs from Gibson in the meeting between the sides at the Aviva Stadium in March. Yet, ahead of that game, Trapattoni had indicated that it was the right game for the player in question because Ireland would be in a dominant position -- something he is quite used to with his club.
Gibson's fine long-range shooting -- combined with a dodgy goalkeeper -- acted as the assist for Robbie Keane's match-winning goal. "I hope we can play near their box, I will be telling my players to shoot," said Trapattoni before that encounter, a very prescient observation as it turned out.
The suspicion is that Trapattoni always believed that the away fixture would require a central midfield option with the steel he feels that Gibson lacks. After all, last September in Yerevan he opted for Derby's Paul Green as the partner for Glenn Whelan. "We needed someone more aggressive," Trapattoni said.
With Green sidelined with a long- term knee problem, Keith Andrews couldn't have timed his comeback from a troubled campaign any better.
While it was hard to gauge anything from Tuesday's stroll over Northern Ireland, Andrews put in a few crunching tackles in the Scotland encounter, demonstrating that he is in good health.
Keith Fahey is the other alternative but, unfortunately, the Birmingham man has a swollen knee and is in the 'doubtful' category along with defender Sean St Ledger. Kevin Kilbane, John O'Shea and Aiden McGeady are all on track to join up, while Shane Long appeared to come through a disappointing day at Wembley in one piece.
"We have enough good players, and we can decide," said Trapattoni of the midfield situation. "We have Andrews, Whelan and Fahey, although we have a problem with Fahey's knee."
What does this mean for Gibson going forward? It's a stretch to say that he is in the bad books like Wilson and McCarthy. He did send a text message, after all.
However, it's hardly going to improve his standing in a camp which, by all accounts, has taken on a siege mentality over the last week. Robbie Keane's strong criticism of the no-shows, which was followed up by similar comments from Shay Given and Stephen Hunt, gave an accurate picture of the dressing-room sentiment.
It was Trapattoni who made a big call by pitching Gibson in for his competitive debut in October of 2008. Since then, his position in the Irish set-up has been almost purgatorial. If he continues to frustrate his Italian boss, then he will have more to worry about than a pain in the groin.