Trap wants players to show real character
AFTER enjoying a festive visit to Ireland to collect a variety of awards on the back of Ireland's qualification for the finals of Euro 2012, Giovanni Trapattoni will return home today to enjoy a traditional Christmas.
The family will gather round for the big dinner, Italian style. It doesn't involve turkey and ham. Instead, it's what Trapattoni described as a castrated chicken. Or, as he put it himself, a "chicken without balls".
There was much merriment in Portmarnock -- and in The Croke Park Hotel -- yesterday as he tried to offer a polite picture of the feast. But, in a way, it served as an appropriate link to the plans for 2012.
For it is a year where his squad will need plenty of 'balls'. That was the general theme as Trapattoni spoke about the preparations for Poland -- and the attributes that will be required to come through a desperately difficult group.
He feels that Ireland can "get over the first stage" -- providing all of his key players stay fit and the team shows good discipline when our opponents -- be it Italy, Spain or Croatia -- invariably own the ball for long periods of time.
Ireland's effort will also require plenty of character and the manager will be looking for that ingredient from the hopefuls who are trying to force their way into his plans.
Trapattoni was impressed with James McCarthy's performance for Wigan against Chelsea last Saturday, but wants him to be louder on the pitch.
McCarthy could well be in a straight fight with Darron Gibson for a place on the plane to the finals and the 72-year-old Italian, who was looking remarkably fit, will be monitoring the Derry lad's January movements carefully. Gibson will be expected to make a statement by seeking regular football.
"I know his intention," said Trapattoni. "I know he must go for this situation. Now, it depends on his agent and his manager. Gibson has great potential; he has very good qualities."
The Irish boss is also looking for improvement from the 30-odd players who were involved in the qualifying campaign. Whittling that number down to 23 will be difficult and, by extension, it will be hard for any newcomers to stake a claim for inclusion.
A couple of hopefuls may well be invited in for the February friendly with the Czech Republic, but Trapattoni hinted that it would be a stiff task for any new recruit to book a ticket to Poland.
Making a long-term impression with a view to figuring in the next World Cup qualifying campaign is a more realistic aspiration.
"The players understand our mentality now. They accept our philosophy and our mentality," he continued. "I don't know if we deserve these awards we are winning, but what's important is what we did with the players.
"And I think they can find more. Respect is very important. Sure, the lads who will be called up in February will have to spend some time with us, absorb our mentality, our way of working, our system. But that will be for future development. The new aim will be the World Cup."
Trapattoni kept his cards close enough to his chest when discussion turned to the business of reducing his panel ahead of of the Euro finals.
With three goalkeepers definitely going, it's a matter of breaking down the other areas.
Versatility matters. A player like Kevin Foley, who can cover in a number of positions, was accepted as a "good example".
It will be difficult for others who are specific to a particular role. Right-sided midfielder Liam Lawrence has slipped down the pecking order and the Portsmouth player could do without the negative publicity generated by a police caution following an altercation with a Southampton fan last week.
Lawrence dirtied his bib with Trapattoni when he disappointed in the Lansdowne Road defeat by Russia last year and hasn't played a competitive game since. And with the Irish boss pointing out that strikers Jon Walters and Shane Long can also offer wide cover, it looks like bad news is all that Lawrence can expect.
After Christmas, the Irish management will finalise the remainder of their pre-tournament arrangements. The base in Poland is sorted and they are set to land in Gdynia on June 4. It's just a matter of ironing out the itinerary before then. The Championship players will meet in early May, with the Premier League performers arriving when their campaign ends.
If a training camp in Florence is selected, that will be the primary home for preparations. From there, they will fly to Dublin for whatever friendlies are arranged, with Hungary a possible opponent for either May 26 or June 3.
If Trapattoni decides to base the squad in Italy, a training game against local lower-league opposition is on the agenda.
"I am confident," he stressed, with a view to next year. "On the pitch, there is only one ball. We don't have many creative players, but we have the right players, football players, with the right attitude. I have a strong belief about what we can achieve."