Trapattoni admits Irish Euro campaign 'terrible'
GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI was this week inducted into Italian football's Hall of Fame, ending a turbulent 2012 on a rare high.
Whether he can recapture his past glories with Ireland remains to be seen, but the 72-year-old can put a disappointing year to bed and remains confident that he can turn the World Cup campaign around.
After a "terrible" European Championships in Poland, his side slumped to a record home defeat to Germany when it appeared Il Capo's job was firmly on the line.
He survived after beating the Faroe Islands and is now hopeful of better things to come in 2013 – a year when qualification for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil will be determined, with it likely to come down largely to those five days in March when Ireland play Sweden in Stockholm and Austria in Dublin.
"The year was definitely divided into two distinct parts for me," he revealed through an interpreter. "Obviously there was the big success of qualifying and getting to the Euros and the euphoria of doing so.
"But unfortunately it was a bad Euros, it was terrible. It didn't go the way we'd hoped.
"That didn't perturb me. I know what the players are capable of. I was always convinced and am convinced we can react and get over the psychological impact of the Euros.
"Yes, there was the bad result with Germany, but, as the manager, I have to remember there were six key players missing. I know it was not the Ireland that is there within this group of players.
"Even the match against the Faroes immediately after showed that the identity, spirit and enthusiasm are still there. We need to keep growing that trend. We need to bear in mind as well that teams have gone out to Kazakhstan and not won, so that was an important one for us too.
"I think the most important thing for 2013 is that I know the squad has the awareness that they can compete with everyone. They showed that obviously in the past in the World Cup – but for the defeat to France – and the Euro qualifiers.
"The important thing for me is that the squad plays with the same determination and spirit that has always characterised Irish teams in the past; that they show they are not afraid of any opposition."
Trapattoni has sent Christmas greetings to all of his players, but his festive cheer has failed to defrost his relations with Darron Gibson.
The Everton midfielder has made himself unavailable for Ireland since not featuring at last summer's European Championships and the Italian said that his return does not appear imminent.
The player's international exile has coincided with a rich vein of form at club level, but after finally nailing down a regular spot at Premier League level, the 25-year-old Derry native remains unwilling to lend his attributes to the Ireland cause next March when the crunch qualifiers against Sweden and Austria take place.
Trapattoni had better news about Anthony Pilkington, the English born Norwich winger, whom he believes could add a new dimension to his options if he finally makes the decision to play for Ireland.
The 24-year-old played at U-21 level for the country of his grandmother, but he has not yet committed to the cause as he retains hopes of playing for England.
But the Italian believes that the winger could be close to declaring for Ireland in time for the friendly against Poland in February.
"I can say with certainty that he is very interested to play for us," Trapattoni said.
"He is honoured by the interest and the paperwork is being processed at the moment. Who knows, we might be able to see him in early February."
The veteran manager has watched Norwich a number of times in recent months and intends to take in another of their games over Christmas.
"He is a very particular type of player. He is technically excellent and he is very physical," he said.
"He is really at ease playing both off his left and right foot. He is young and very aggressive with the ball. I don't know if during my time here we have actually had that type of player, who is at ease both on the left and right wing and who can come in and create difficulties for defences."
"I think he is a great threat in front of goal. There are a lot of different ways he can attack in the air.
"He has a great strike of the ball and he is not afraid to take a shot. He is excellent at set-pieces, his physical and technical attributes are there for everyone to see."
As for Gibson, the outlook is a lot less positive.
"It certainly seems he is not ready to come back at the moment. I have been in contact with him, just to wish him a happy Christmas, but we will continue to follow him," Trapattoni said. "Certainly I intend to go and see him at some matches and, hopefully, to establish some contact with him, to establish his position regarding his readiness and in his own head what his feelings are."
The major headache for the Ireland manager, however, is the continued absence and uncertainty over his injured first-choice centre-halves Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger.
Both players are unsure of their return dates, but Trap is hopeful that Marc Wilson will return in time for March and believes Ciaran Clark's recent form with Aston Villa, whom he captained in their midweek win over Norwich, lessens the blow if one or both of the defenders miss out.
"Obviously, I hope Richard and Sean can come back, but having seen the progress Clark has made, getting a lot of game time, I am not concerned about it. He is stepping up," he said.
The Italian needs a strong start to the new year and his destiny will be decided in March.
Having survived the guillotine, he is hopeful of a new lease of life and retains dreams of Brazil.
Whether he can convince a sceptical public and get more out of his players remains to be seen, but if there is one person the Italian doesn't doubt, it is himself.