Tuesday 19 September 2017

Trap: OK to have a drink

‘There is the moment after the game. I allow the players to have one or two drinks. You have to trust them. It’s not a prison. It’s better that I allow them rather than forbid them. Then they would run off and do it behind my back’

Interpreter Manuela Spinelli stands by as Giovanni Trapattoni makes a point at yesterday's press conference. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Interpreter Manuela Spinelli stands by as Giovanni Trapattoni makes a point at yesterday's press conference. Photo: David Maher / Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

To booze or not to booze? That is the question and Giovanni Trapattoni has declared that the best policy is to allow his Irish players to unwind with a drink after games -- provided they do so in moderation.

The Italian has dismissed any suggestion there is an issue with discipline related to alcohol in his dressing-room, stressing that Richard Dunne's private issues with Aston Villa are a club matter rather than something that is of concern to the international boss.

Sporadically, the social habits of the football team have hit the headlines over the last decade, with the issue largely surrounding timing ahead of big matches rather than any deep -seated problem

However, Trapattoni has accepted that letting off steam with a few drinks after a game is part of the football culture in this part of the world, and believes there would be no logic in imposing a ban, because there's a fair chance that his squad would defy it anyway.

"We're not in prison. And it's better when I allow them rather than forbid them. Then they would have to run off and do it behind my back," he quipped.

Trapattoni's fellow Italians Roberto Mancini and Fabio Capello have both spoken about adjusting to the different habits which exist within the British game compared to their homeland, where a glass of wine and chasing after women -- as Mancini once alluded to -- is considered a more preferable post-match activity.

After his appointment at the beginning of 2008, Trapattoni quickly got a taste of how the Irish like to do things. Most notably, there was the argument in a German hotel where a guitar-playing Andy Reid was deemed to have been the main culprit in the breaking of a curfew following a World Cup qualifying win over Georgia.

The 72-year-old strenuously denies that the disagreement is the reason for Reid's exclusion from his plans. "I do not choose my squad because there is one player later to bed," he said.

Last October, there were Sunday newspaper reports of Irish players appearing in a north Dublin nightclub after the loss to Russia.

Trapattoni has admitted that he allows his players to relax following a game but the grey area, in this case, was the claim that a further delegation from the squad were at the same venue 24 hours later, just three days before the 1-1 draw with Slovakia in a crunch qualifier in Zilina.

Permission

It is unclear if permission was granted in that instance.

Nevertheless, Trapattoni has insisted that he trusts his men to behave responsibly when they are allowed to leave the relative boredom of the hotel where they spend these weeks cooped up.

"The rules are the rules," he continued. "There is the moment after game, I allow the players to have one or two drinks. When I say 'it's time to go to bed', it's time to go to bed.

"You have to trust them. You can't be with them all of the time. You can't go to bed together," he joked, before calming down the laughter and adding, seriously. "They are professionals, and you have to give them the responsibility."

Of course, the worrying aspect of Dunne's unsavoury fall-out with Aston Villa coaching staff is that, at the age of 31, he was supposed to have left those troubled days behind him after scrapes at Everton and Manchester City in his youth.

Irish captain Robbie Keane was also in the dock at Spurs 18 months ago for organising an unsanctioned Christmas party trip to Dublin, which soured his relationship with Harry Redknapp.

When figures of authority are involved, the fear is that a bad example is being set. But Trapattoni feels that his experienced stars are smart enough to know when the time is right.

Certainly, with respect to Dunne, he hinted that the latest incident is perhaps borne from the frustration he is experiencing with his present employers.

Trapattoni pointed out that the vitally important central defender had never caused him any problems during his three years in charge.

"I only look at what he does with us," said Trapattoni, "When he comes with us, he is okay.

"At every age you can mature, and I think he has a situation at the club with his manager. I'm not worried about this.

"The players in England, they are under pressure, they play two games every week. I know the English players like to let off steam. It's not only Richard Dunne, it is other players.

"It's only one day. It's not six days of binge drinking. I say, everything with moderation."

Getting the balance right has often been a problem, though. You don't have to go too far in Dublin to find sportsmen from other codes enjoying a social drink. Indeed, the allure around the rugby stars is enhanced by the fact that they're living and working in Ireland, and it's therefore quite possible you can bump into them around town on a given weekend.

The stigma around footballers is different, though, with the most well publicised instance of Irish squad members landing themselves in unnecessary trouble coming when Mark Kennedy and Phil Babb danced on a garda's police car outside Copperface Jacks before a World Cup qualifier back in 2000.

That incident was something of a watershed in the sense that, prior to that, the famous drinking exploits of Irish groups on international trips generally managed to stay out of the headlines. Now, their social excursions are never more than a camera phone away from controversy.

Still, Trapattoni has faith that his squad can conduct themselves in a manner that won't draw attention.

A man who came to Ireland with a vow to change habits has resigned himself to the reality that a zero tolerance policy would do more harm than good.

Irish Independent

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