Friday 22 September 2017

Euro 2012: Trap lets fly in bid to put Foley furore to bed

Query over contact with Wilson throws further fat on fire for exasperated Italian

There was no holding back
at the Irish training session
in Montecatini yesterday as
Sean St Ledger's crunching
tackle on Paul Green shows
There was no holding back at the Irish training session in Montecatini yesterday as Sean St Ledger's crunching tackle on Paul Green shows

DANIEL MCDONNELL in Montecatini

THERE was a moment yesterday when it seemed that Giovanni Trapattoni was going to walk away from a fraught pitchside press conference.

He turned his back, took a step, and then flipped around to proceed with the same animation that defined his gait on a warm morning in Tuscany.

When Steve Staunton and Brian Kerr cut their media briefings short, it was a sign they were feeling the heat. With Trapattoni yesterday, however, it was more a case of feeling pretty browned off.

The question that almost set him over the edge was a search for clarification regarding the availability of Marc Wilson, a new name to enter the Euro 2012 picture.

With Kevin Foley leaving the camp on Wednesday in no frame of mind to return in case a late injury strikes, Wilson has emerged as the next in line on standby, although, as of last night, he was yet to respond to a text from the FAI to confirm his possible availability.

Excuse

"Maybe he is asleep," exclaimed Trapattoni, who initially fell out with the Stoke man last year when he didn't show for a Carling Nations tie with Northern Ireland, claiming that his phone was off as part of a complicated excuse.

But it wasn't Wilson who raised the manager's ire yesterday. Instead, it was the continued questioning on the shock decision to omit Foley from his plans on Tuesday.

It is not the actual football reasoning that has caused a ripple, with the central-defensive shortage making Paul McShane's promotion somewhat logical.

However, it's the lead-up to Foley's dismissal which devastated the player, and upset his friends in the squad. He travelled to Italy having been named in the final 23 and told he would be a part of it once he proved his fitness.

When his hamstring issue cleared up, Trapattoni changed his mind at the last minute and it's the supposed betrayal that has prompted Foley to now question if he wants to play international football again in this regime.

The 27-year-old is a popular member of the squad, so his emotional departure caused some disquiet. Nobody is happy about the prospect of him abandoning international football.

Indeed, in the midst of his mini-rant, Trapattoni paused to point out that the Wolves man is a "fantastic guy". He even appeared to forgive his outburst on Tuesday night. "In the moment of disappointment you can say everything," he said. "So, the first reaction is understandable."

Yet the general theme of the manager's comments was exasperation at the fact that he is talking about a problem for August, with the European Championships around the corner. Amid rumblings of discontent, he called his squad together before training for lengthy clear-the-air talks where he effectively stressed that point.

"This morning, I said to the team: 'Words are easy.' For you, the media, you write too easy. In Italy, we say words are... (he pauses to make a gesture that words come from the mouth and disappear into think air)... Responsibility! Responsibility! I have to pick one player or the other.

"That is the responsibility, for the team, and for the country. If there is another injury, what will you say then? What words?"

He was referring to the possibility of Richard Dunne or another central defender picking up an injury in Hungary next week that would suddenly make McShane's presence a necessity.

Evidently, his words have left a mark with the senior players in the squad, all of whom have their eyes on what could possibly be their last taste of a major tournament.

Their opinion is that the £1.3m-a-year manager should be allowed to get on with business.

"It was tough on Tuesday," said Shay Given. "We're sorry that a couple of players have missed out, like Keith Fahey and now Kevin.

"But it's not about an individual, it's about the team and the nation.

"It's a tough decision for the manager to take, but that's what he gets paid for.

"He's made tough decisions in his career before and I'm sure he'll make them again in the future."

The 73-year-old believed that reading a statement on Tuesday night would draw a line under the Foley issue. He is trying to remain as sensitive as possible, while making the point that it's time to forget about it and move on.

His patience was tested yesterday, though.

"I speak bad English, but I spoke to him," he said, raising his voice.

"I gave him the regards. I say, Kevin, if you stay (as 24th man) I am very, very happy. I understand your disappointment. I understand you are sad, and I was even sadder than you to make the decision. But I am the man with heavy responsibility."

The theory that he would have been better naming a larger squad of 27/28 and sending four or five home on Tuesday riled the 73-year-old further. "Prandelli (Cesare, Italy manager) did that, and it was just as bad!," he said.

"I have already explained why I chose between two players with different characteristics.

"I don't have anything else to add. We speak about the training. We speak about what we can do again.

"I ask of you, Paul McShane is Irish player or a foreign player? I called in another Irish player, so I don't see the problem. I also clarified why. For the position. For the position.

"The position is for defender. It is clear. I no call a striker or a winger.

"I am finished with this question. Finished. Finished. Finished.

"Do you want to talk about training now?"

On another day, the full return of Given and John O'Shea would have hogged the headlines. It was a lively session, and Trapattoni indicated he will include them in his strongest team for Monday's friendly in Hungary.

That's where he is looking towards now.

He wants to put the Foley issue to bed, although he first needs to clarify if Wilson is awake or asleep. But it was a suggestion that he may not have contacted the player yet which almost proved the final straw.

"What do you think?" Trapattoni shouted. "We sleep or no sleep? I sleep until start of Euros? After 30 years of career? We are not on holidays."

So, when he was later asked if he enjoyed Wednesday's training-free schedule, the response was predictable. "The players rested," he snapped, "I worked."

There is no time for idle talk. The only day that matters is Sunday week.

Irish Independent

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