Saturday 29 April 2017

'If Giovanni decides to stop, I would be very proud to stay'

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

WHEN Marco Tardelli speaks with the press, the script runs along a familiar theme. He is polite, smiles a lot, makes the odd quip, and handles weightier matters by suggesting that you should really ask Giovanni Trapattoni or somebody else with more authority.

At the Aviva Stadium yesterday morning, the Irish assistant manager stuck rigidly enough to his favoured modus operandi -- save for a lengthy treatise on the problems of Serie A -- until discussions turned to the issue of the future; and the chances of the Italian experiment developing into more of a long-term relationship.

On this matter, he was unequivocal. The one-line answer was replaced by a detailed response, and an invitation for members of the audience to declare whether they thought Trapattoni should stay on, and if they reckoned the past three years could be deemed a success.

It concluded with Tardelli confirming the assumption that he fancies a shot at the big job when Trapattoni's stint ends, although the problem is that nobody is quite sure if that decision will be made by the 72-year-old, or will be made for him by the FAI if this European qualifying campaign ends ignominiously.

Liam Brady has openly advocated handing the reins to Tardelli when the day comes, and the former Inter Milan and Italy U-21 coach is clearly energised by that prospect. "When and if Giovanni decides to stop, I would be very proud to be able to stay here," he said.

Before that, the 56-year-old had launched a passionate defence of the work which the current management team have done since 2008.

His logic is that they had brought young players into the fold, only missed out on the last World Cup due to that incident in Paris, and are joint top of their qualifying group this time around. Put that way, it's a convincing pitch.

Expensive

The flip side, of course, is that they are the most expensive management team ever hired by the FAI, and it would represent a failure if there was no major tournament experience to show for it after four years. Tardelli doesn't quite subscribe to that view.

"I think the Irish people think that we do a good job," he stated. "We have done a good job. And I think the project here is just starting. There are many young players, no?

"The FAI will decide what they want. Just to make it clear, my question to you is whether your opinion is also based on results, and whether we qualify or whether you judge progress on what you're doing, and the basis of a project.

"It's true (about pressure to qualify), but I think we have already reached some objectives. We all know we didn't qualify (for South Africa), but we also know why we didn't qualify and it doesn't mean we didn't do a good job. Now we are first in the table.

"We have to evaluate the work that's been done so far and decide on the basis of the project. It's true that results are important. But, let's not forget, we have gone up 10 points in the world rankings. Each to its own decisions, but we will continue to be proud to have worked here and for the work we've done, independently of the decision of the FAI, but the job has been done."

There you have it. Tardelli doesn't expect any contract chat with the FAI until after June's qualifier with Macedonia and, realistically, it may not be until the business end of the campaign in the autumn. But there is no ambiguity about the stance of the men in situ.

Otherwise, Tardelli -- who was launching a new national five-a-side competition -- moved through a fair range of topics. In summary, he thinks Wayne Rooney is now on a par with Lionel Messi, hopes Manchester United win the Champions League, but suggested that Barcelona-Real Madrid is actually the final, and bemoaned the decline of football in his homeland, admitting that he prefers watching English football.

He had no plans to stick around Dublin for last night's Bohs-Rovers encounter though. "I'm very familiar with Irish football and the Irish league," he said, diplomatically.

Tardelli was unable to provide clarity on Ireland's planned tour to the US and expressed tentative confidence that Kevin Doyle and Shay Given will be there for the crucial qualifier in Macedonia.

The planned American jaunt will be for rising stars, and Tardelli was coy enough on the prospect of Derry-born Newcastle player Shane Ferguson being in that number. The left-sided performer has represented Northern Ireland in a senior friendly, but the fear in Belfast is that he intends to follow Shane Duffy and declare for Ireland. "He hasn't indicated to us, but I like him," smiled the Irish No 2. "There are many ways for him to contact us."

The 19-year-old might be one for the future. Whether it's a vision that involves Tardelli will depend on the events of the next six months.

Irish Independent

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