Trapattoni working with weak squad – McAteer
JASON McAteer, Phil Babb and Packie Bonner yesterday turned up the heat on the players in the latest twist to the 'Great National Soccer Debate.'
The former stars, who each had a role at various stages of Ireland's Golden Age from 1988-2002, don't believe that all of the problems rest with manager Giovanni Trapattoni.
And all three were adamant that this would be the wrong time for the FAI to sack the manager.
The trio, who earned 167 caps between them, were in Dublin yesterday for the announcement of ESPN's latest TV coverage of the English and Scottish Premier Leagues,
McAteer said: "It's a really difficult time for Ireland at the minute.
"It was exceptional, the job he (Trapattoni) did in getting that squad to the European Championships.
"I don't see any great players coming through. When Mick (McCarthy) took over Jack's team, Mick's experienced players were Phil, Steve Staunton, myself, all playing for Liverpool. Roy Keane was playing for Man United.
"We qualified for Japan (2002), and the younger players -- Damien Duff, Robbie Keane, Gary Breen, Richard Dunne, Shay Given -- bedded in very quickly, got themselves established with their clubs and became top, top players.
"That's not quite happening now for me with this Irish team.
"The experienced players that Trap has been left with, the likes of (Keith) Andrews, (Kevin) Doyle, for me have never really been good enough at international level and now they're having to carry young players who aren't playing at club level regularly.
"As much as we're asking is Trapattoni the right manager, as a manager you're only as good as the squad you've got, and I think he's got a really weak squad at the minute. And I don't know if any manager's going to be able to come in and change it."
Babb, who came into the Irish set-up, as did McAteer, pre-World Cup '94, questioned the future hope for the national team if top-quality players are not filtered through to the highest level of the club game.
"Whoever comes in it's a poisoned chalice. How far can we take Irish football? What is our long-term goal? Are we held back by the coffers? What are we doing at the grass-roots level?" he asked. "Do we want to get into the top 20 of world football? What is the long-term issue? Is it just to qualify and have a party?
"I don't know if that's good enough."
Bonner, the former FAI technical director, also urged moderation in considering Trapattoni's position.
"The manager must make his choice about how he plays the game and who plays, but the logical thing is, if the FAI gave him a contract extension to take us into the World Cup, you don't sack the manager after four months, no matter what," he said.
"You're got to give him time and that's the bottom line."
McAteer and Bonner also urged frustrated players such as Shane Long, Stephen Kelly and James McClean -- as well as Darron Gibson and Kevin Foley, who have opted out of the squad of late -- to be patient.
"They just need to bite the bullet because they know it's got to change," said McAteer. "They know they've got to be given the chance because otherwise he'll (Trapattoni) get the sack.
"If he gets the sack they're going to the their chance anyway under a new manager. Sometimes players just need to calm down.
"I know it's frustrating and difficult, like McClean. I totally understand his position. I know why his head went but you've just got to sometimes bite the bullet and keep your mouth shut.
"They will get their chance. They're young enough."
Bonner commented: "Young players seem to expect so much now. I was 21 when I made my debut. I didn't play (regularly) until I was 26 years old. But if I was thrown in at that time probably at 21, 22, I might have gone under, so I used that time as a learning experience.
"During that time a lot of people were saying I should have been in the (Irish) team or should have gone to Bolton or Everton, but I was quite happy and I went on to have 80 caps and had a very good career.
"The young players need to bide their time and it will come. It's up to the manager to blend them in gradually. People are looking for them all to come in at the one time, and I don't think that's logical either."
That said, there is new talent available and this is a time of transition, so McAteer, Babb and Bonner expect to see the team freshened up by Trapattoni prior to the key World Cup qualifiers against Sweden and Austria next March.
Babb summed it up, saying: "Arguably with his neck on the line, let's see if he listens to public opinion, if he listens to some of the senior players ( if there's any left) -- and just see if he takes it on board."