Thursday 20 July 2017

FORCE

GIOVANNI Trapattoni has challenged John Delaney's suggestion that the Italian's preferred system has contributed in some part to poor attendances at the Aviva Stadium.

Trapattoni, who was in Dublin to name his squad for the crunch Euro 2012 showdown with Estonia, was surprised to learn of Delaney's response to a question in a recent radio interview with Newstalk.

"The style of play isn't the most attractive to watch," said the FAI CEO, who followed it with the assertion: "but if you love your country, you come and watch your team play."

The comments were put to the Irish manager yesterday, and he seemed genuinely taken aback.

"John Delaney, our president?" he replied, with an inaccurate reference to the Waterford man's job title.

Trapattoni remains in contract limbo, with the FAI holding back on offering a new deal until after the Estonian showdown.

The veteran has pointed out that he could walk away even if Ireland secure qualification, although he has little intention of following that through.

FORCE

"We don't want to force the situation," he said.

Still, with his future uncertain, Trapattoni was unsubtly reminding people of his credentials as he spoke at FAI HQ in Abbotstown, pointing out that every time he travels to Ireland, other air passengers always compliment him on his work. He added that element to discussion of Delaney's analysis.

"I don't answer (to) John because I don't need to answer (to) the president," he said,

"I need to answer (to) the people. Every time I fly to Ireland, the aeroplane is full of Irish people. 200 people. All Irish. They say, well done, and congratulations. I don't know why. I'm not St Patrick."

Trapattoni did mention that Delaney had forgotten about the impact of the recession but, to be fair to the 72-year-old, he was unaware that the CEO had also cited economic reasons for the disappointing turnouts at the renovated Lansdowne Road.

Either way, the Irish boss -- who made a promotional trip to the Cliffs of Moher after the squad announcement and will watch wannabe Irishman Alex Pearce in Reading's Championship clash with Crystal Palace today -- took the opportunity to again advertise the reasons why he should be given a contract extension.

"We had a ranking in the 30s, or I don't remember, when we took over," he said. "Now, we are 25th. But the players are the same."

The bigger picture is Estonia, though, and while the rankings are used to support his argument in one sense, he is keen to dismiss them in the context of the Baltic nation.

If Ireland were to lose out to a team that is 59th in the world list, then the perception will be of a failure that could ultimately cost the manager his job.

"It would be a dangerous mistake to underestimate them," said Trapattoni, who was at pains to stress the qualities of Estonia.

In a tangent about his team's performances over the course of his tenure, he referenced the tale of David and Goliath, which was trotted out ahead of games with Italy and France.

He refused to countenance the prospect that Ireland have flipped roles ahead of this encounter.

"No, we are the same," he said. "We are two Davids."

All through, the message from the top table was that Ireland had respect for the task at hand.

Even the official press release with the squad announcement contained a prepared quote which kicked off with the words: "There is no room for complacency."

Trapattoni saw the FAI delegation smiling in Krakow when the draw took place, but his initial instinct was to contact Cesare Prandelli, who had steered Italy to the top of a group where Estonia finished surprise runners up ahead of Serbia and Slovenia.

Departing Faroe Islands boss Brian Kerr has also sent on some information which was appreciated.

The basic message is to respect a team which has a serious work ethic and a strong mental approach. In other words, attitude will be decisive.

"There are three certain things in life," Trapattoni continued. "You are born, you live, and you die. We have to prepare for every game with the same mentality.

"I will not allow our players to pull my leg. Don't mess with me. I always say to my players, don't make fun of me and don't underestimate other teams."

EXCLUSION

With the exception of Kevin Kilbane, whose international career appears to be over after his exclusion, there were no real shocks in the squad.

"Kevin is in our hearts, but now we go with others," Trapattoni said.

As expected, Shane Long is given every chance to prove his fitness despite the negative prognosis from West Brom, while there appears to be real confidence that Robbie Keane will be fine to start the first leg in Tallinn on November 11. But the player will be relied upon to give an honest appraisal of his well-being.

Leon Best will only be summoned if Long is sidelined, but his chances of figuring in that event seem to be slim unless there are further setbacks.

Simon Cox and Jonathan Walters are fit and well, and Trapattoni reminded his audience not to forget about Andy Keogh either.

There was no discussion of Anthony Stokes, but there was praise for Wes Hoolahan, who might get an opportunity in a different formation after Christmas. He has impressed Trapattoni with his Premier League displays. His Norwich team-mates Anthony Pilkington and Marc Tierney are also on the radar.

Darron Gibson is welcomed back into the panel though, despite a period of inactivity at Manchester United due to a toe problem.

His chances of being involved are remote, with Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews favoured for the battle looming over the horizon.

It won't be pretty, but Trapattoni and his employers will care little if the outcome is an end to a decade-long major tournament drought.

Irish Independent

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