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Monday 22 September 2014

The cost of change versus price of failure

Published 15/10/2012 | 05:00

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IT all comes down to the money now. In football, it always does.

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For the FAI, the next move on the future of Giovanni Trapattoni is a financial decision.

There are two scenarios. 'Scenario A' is the cost of terminating the contracts of Trapattoni, his assistant Marco Tardelli and fitness coach Fausto Rossi. The Italian trio have a year left on their deals and it is believed that a severance package at full pay would cost in excess of €1.7m.

'Scenario B' is the cost of keeping him on. There is no round figure for this, just the damage that would be caused by an empty ground for next month's friendly with Greece, a Polish-dominated crowd for the February friendly and low attendances for the remainder of the World Cup 2014 qualifiers.

The fans leaving the Aviva Stadium after Friday night's win over Germany were keen to voice their displeasure, and they will not be attracted back by a win in Torshavn tomorrow.

Euro 2012 brought this team right back into the national spotlight, but the abject performances there have planted a perception of this regime that the German drubbing has cemented.

Trapattoni's first two years in charge were characterised by a T-shirt branded with the message 'Hope'. Now, we have reached despair, with some of the fans travelling to the Faroes threatening to produce a 'Trap Out' banner that will deliver unhappy reminders of the fraught Steve Staunton era to the FAI hierarchy.

This is significant. If the people make their displeasure felt, and vote with their feet, those same administrators are placed in a difficult position.

It is no secret that the FAI's wellbeing is dependent on the success or otherwise of the international team. Ticket revenue is crucial.

Philosophy

So, too, is the boost that would accompany progression to the play-off stage next November. Trapattoni is an advocate of the 'never say never' philosophy, but even he acknowledges that Germany will top Ireland's group.

'Scenario B' involves speculation. 'Scenario A' requires negotiation. Trapattoni and Tardelli have earned good money during their tenure and it would leave a sour taste if they sought a full payout. But they were given a contract to sign and ripping it up will always come at a price.

The problem for the Abbotstown number crunchers is that they are already facing into a difficult 18 months ahead. FAI chief executive John Delaney has acknowledged that fact.

Come 2014, centralised UEFA TV revenue will ease the burden of repayments on bank borrowings arising from their commitment to the Aviva Stadium. It is well documented that the failure of the 10-year ticket scheme has placed a strain on the finances.

Budgets are tight and they will not have made a provision for the expense of firing one management team and hiring another. Gambling on the storm abating if they overcome the Faroes is a risky strategy.

In the aftermath of the German thrashing, Trapattoni responded incredulously at suggestions that his position might be under threat.

On Saturday, he said that failing to beat the Faroes would not change his assessment of that particular point.

Later, he added that no discussions with the FAI had taken place about his position. "They know our jobs," he said. "They know what we are doing."

The 73-year-old is also sure that he retains public support, referencing the kind comments he receives when he happens upon supporters during his trips here. Reference was made to the manner in which the fans "made applause" after the humbling defeats in Poland, with the boos late on Friday night batted away. "I think they are fantastic," he said. "When we go on the road, on the street..."

Trapattoni, as we know, is a keen student of DVDs and if someone sends him a copy of RTE's coverage of the German debacle, a post-match voxpop would offer him a different perspective of what the Irish people now think.

Comments ranged from depression to anger. "I just hope the manager is gone," said the most irate punter, and the sentiment was popular in Dublin 4 in the hours after the game.

The manager feels that second place in the group is a realistic aspiration and launched a defence of his work. "This team know their jobs," he said "And I'm sure that we are making a good job. Other people say this, not me. I am paid to do the job. But the others, in Europe, in Italy or France, they say we are doing well.

"I think we can qualify. Germany is superior than us. But I know Austria, I know Sweden and we had a lot of options missing on Friday night."

Is this a crisis, he is asked?

"It's not a crisis," he responded. "Maybe, with Kazakhstan, we might have spoken about a crisis in the first match after what happened in the Euros. But we won in Kazakhstan and we beat Oman. This is not a problem.

"In 10 days, we have lost five players. (for the Germany game). I am sure we can change this situation."

Changes have been promised, although we've heard that before. He hinted that Robbie Brady and Marc Wilson could figure against the Faroes, but, in Trappish, a reference to "next game" is sometimes a reference to next month and the not so eagerly anticipated visit of the Greeks.

Barring change at the top, few people will be there to witness it unless freebies are scattered around like confetti.

"When we see them (FAI people) it is, 'Ciao, regards, no problem'," he continued. "They know that we have taken players from the U-21s. Slowly, slowly. We take (Greg) Cunningham, now Brady, now Seamus Coleman."

Nobody could argue with his description of the pace of change, but the FAI will need to move quickly after tomorrow night to address the managerial problem.

The bottom line depends on their freedom to loosen the purse strings.

Irish Independent

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