Sunday 22 January 2017

The great Trapattoni debate

Master tactician or lucky general? What does future hold for Ireland's manager?

Published 31/10/2011 | 05:00

Giovanni Trapattoni
Giovanni Trapattoni

THIS day week, the Ireland players will meet in Dublin to begin preparations for the eagerly awaited Euro 2012 play-off with Estonia.

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The two-legged clash will have huge implications for the development of the Irish game at the highest level and the future of Giovanni Trapattoni. As the countdown to the crunch showdown gathers pace, we spoke to five members of the Irish football community about the big questions surrounding the Italian as his tenure reaches a make-or-break juncture.

The questions

1. Should Giovanni Trapattoni stay on as Ireland manager regardless of what happens against Estonia?

2. His system has been cited as a reason for falling attendances. Does the style of play matter?

3. The FAI spent a lot of money to bring in Trapattoni in 2009. Has the Italian experiment been worth it?

4. Who would you like to see starting up front against Estonia in the first leg in Tallinn on November 11?

5. Prediction time. Do you believe that Ireland will qualify?

ALAN McLOUGHLIN

Won 42 caps for Ireland and secured qualification for 1994 World Cup

1 You have to look out there and see if there is anyone who could come in and do any better. I'm not convinced. Russia were always going to be favourites, so he's done well to reach the play-offs. I think he has a sense of what players can achieve so I'd have no objections if he stayed another term.

2 He can only work with what he has. If you play attractive and lose games and get nowhere near qualifying, will people be happy? Squads go in cycles, it's an evolving thing and I think he has realised the capabilities of these players and decided this is how they can do best after three years looking at the options that are available. I think crowds are down because people don't have money.

3 It may only be justified if you get to where you want to, which is a major finals. If we don't qualify and he wants to stay, then there will have to be sensible dialogue. The FAI aren't the English FA or a Middle Eastern FA so they don't have the money to be paying out the same kind of deal the next time if qualification isn't guaranteed. But I think he's done as well as could have expected until now.

4 I see Robbie came back last night and if he gets through his games for his club then it's a question of who starts beside him. He's a fabulous player and has the guile and experience for a game like this. If we need to stretch them, then we'll need someone who is direct that can unsettle them. Jonathan Walters is used to that style with Stoke, and maybe he's the right foil for Robbie.

5 I believe so. Obviously, it's a good draw, although the pressure is different. This is unlike other play-offs we've experienced, I played away in Belgium and was sat on the bench in Turkey when we were up against it. This time, the second leg is in Dublin and we're favourites, but I think these players can live up to the expectations and end our long wait for another European Championships appearance.

EOIN HAND

Played for Ireland 19 times and managed team from 1980-85

1 I don't think it's right to look that far ahead. Really, I think that he's got to take each campaign as it comes. The old cliche is that you have to take every game as it comes, and I think he needs to adopt the same approach and take every competition as it comes rather than thinking about that.

2 We want it all ways here. We've always had a playmaker in the John Giles or Liam Brady mode but we don't have that now and I think Trapattoni has set his team up that way because of it. You can't make omelettes without eggs. And I think that with the ability of the squad he's got, then he's done very well. But we can do better within the system. I'd love the Paris template to be the way.

3 I wouldn't call it an experiment because of his stature in the game. I think he's given Ireland a stature that we were losing. I may be putting myself down, but it was the same between myself and Jack Charlton. If I had a problem, it was that I didn't have that the stature, and Jack did. Now, Jack got a bit of luck, and Trapattoni has had it too. But we had a near miss in Paris and now we're on the brink so it was a good appointment.

4 If possible, I would like to see Shane Long and Robbie Keane, although Jon Walters surprised everyone with his mobility and touch in the last game and could slot in if Long misses out. I would be monitoring Robbie Keane's fitness closely. You can't take a chance with that, because then it would be showing complacency to think you can beat Estonia with half-fit players.

5 I take a very optimistic view, maybe too much at times. I think the prize is there, and the players know what disappointment is like. It's a last-chance saloon for some of them, and I can't see them blowing it, I really can't. We'd have said 'yes please' to this at the start of the competition. Yes, we're terrible favourites sometimes, but I think Trapattoni is addressing that.

KEITH O'NEILL

Capped 13 times for Ireland. Ex-Norwich and Middlesbrough midfielder

1 It's simple for me. If he gets to the European finals, then he gets the contract, and if he doesn't, then I don't think he should get a new deal. Pure and simple. With the way his teams play football, it's based on results. People will understand his ethos if we qualify, but if we don't...

2 In fairness to him on this, in Ireland we need to have a defined style of play. I don't think we have players that are good enough to go out and just play champagne football naturally without a real plan. We don't have great players, so what we need is somebody who goes out there and knows his role within the team, and that's what he has brought.

3 I think we needed to stabilise. We got quite a few decisions wrong after Mick McCarthy left, so perhaps we had to pay more money than we should have for Trapattoni because there was a sense of panic because of how bad it was before he arrived. We owe him a lot, regardless of what people say about the money he's on. We were very unlucky against France, and we're in there now with a chance again.

4 It depends on how Robbie Keane is. Robbie has been around the block long enough to know that he can't risk playing if he's not right. But if Robbie is right, then he has to play. And we will have a fresh Kevin Doyle back for the second leg. I was impressed with Simon Cox against Armenia, and I'd be happy for him to be involved again. He put in an excellent shift.

5 I am confident. Over the years, we haven't had great luck, but this is the first time I can remember a lot of things falling our way. There's no doubt that we are better when we are underdogs, but I think Trapattoni is exactly the manager you'd want in this position. He won't allow people get complacent and with the experience of Richard Dunne, Shay Given, Robbie and Duffer, I think they can do it.

JOHN McDONNELL

Former St Patrick's Athletic manager and Faroe Islands assistant boss

1 It comes down to Estonia. If he qualifies, then why not? You'd have to give him a go. In saying that, it would mean another campaign of unattractive football that's not the easiest on the eye. But the bigger picture is that if we qualify then it's financially good for the FAI, and public opinion will come into it as well.

2 We don't have a culture of playing nice, beautiful football. Under Jack, it was a long-ball game, but it was successful. That said, there's no doubt you can facilitate some sort of flair within the system. There should be room for a player like Keith Fahey or Wes Hoolahan, who can play in the last third of the pitch. Wim Koevermans is trying to change the culture, and I think in five years we'll be playing 4-3-3.

3 It's black and white for me. He was brought in to achieve qualification, that was the plan. We've gone up in the world rankings since he's come in, but is that enough? The football isn't nice to watch, but if we get to the finals then it has worked. Although we'll see then if things change when we do qualify, and if there's room for a bit more guile.

4 From what I've seen of Estonia, they will sit in and defend tight. It would suit them if we play in straight lines and are more predictable like we tend to be. I think we'll need Keane's unpredictability to pick the lock. But you'd need to partner him with a strong player who can hold the ball up and bring others into it. If Long misses out, then Jonathan Walters should be next in line, but I'd like to see Leon Best in the squad as well.

5 I think Ireland need to score in Tallinn because if Estonia get a 0-0 draw at home they'll be really happy, and will be comfortable coming to Dublin. So, I don't think it's as easy as people are making out to be. If they sit in, it could be a bit of a stand-off, but if they have to come out and play in the second match then I think we'll just have a little too much for them.

SEAN DILLON

Dundee United defender and ex-Irish underage player

1I don't think he's done a whole lot wrong. I thought that sacking Brian Kerr was a mistake, so you have to be careful about changing for the sake of it. If we don't go through I still don't thin they should to get rid of him.

2It's not just an Irish thing but I've lost a bit of interest in the internationals. I can't get up for watching them like I used to, because a lot of them just aren't interesting. But the Russia game really gave me a lift; it was exciting to watch Richard Dunne at work. And that's the bottom line. The big tournaments are what interests people, so you've got to do what it takes to get a result.

3 It's difficult. If we don't qualify but he's brought us up the rankings then he can say that he's improved us. So, you have to define what you're looking for exactly. I always remember Brian Kerr saying that in his campaign, a world-class goal from a world-class player (Thierry Henry) was the difference between qualifying or not. And that cost him. The margin between success and failure can be that slim.

4 Robbie has to be involved. Playing against him in the SPL was an eye-opener. He was so far ahead of everybody else. That's not to say that Kevin Doyle or Shane Long wouldn't have been, but with Robbie, it was just the positions he found. They were so good that even his team-mates couldn't read them. Cox was excellent against Armenia, but we might need a more direct option to relieve pressure.

5 Definitely. I think there's going to be a real buzz around the place. People have given out about the style of play and the price of tickets, but with such a big prize at stake the old atmosphere should be back. There's nothing worse than watching a major tournament without Ireland, but I feel they will be good enough over the two legs.

Irish Independent

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