Sunday 23 April 2017

Trapattoni's three-point plan bears fruit

Giovanni Trapattoni. Photo: Sportsfile
Giovanni Trapattoni. Photo: Sportsfile

JOHN O'BRIEN

Reasons to be cheerful. Giovanni Trapattoni entered the big room in the Aviva Stadium and quickly gave his audience three of them. The three points were good to be starting with, but it was much more than that. The performance of his team. The individual performances of key players. The questions that had surrounded his team selection had all been answered. A manager happy and vindicated.

"The choice of players like [Darren] O'Dea, [Darron] Gibson and [Kevin] Foley," he said. "There were all these questions. Why do you choose him over him and him over the other? So I've always been told Foley doesn't offer enough going forward and tonight he proved the opposite. So I have reason to be happy about my choice."

Today his team sit at the top of Group B alongside Russia and Slovakia, the memory of the scalping by Russia here late last year now fading into the background, and Trapattoni sees no clouds in his world. "Obviously our path was made easier by the goal at the beginning," he said. "But I thought we controlled the game well. We made good chances and we could have scored another goal, one or two more. It was another reason to be happy about the team and the performance."

Last year when Aiden McGeady announced his surprise switch from Celtic to Spartak Moscow, there were those sceptical that such a move would not work out for the winger. Initially Trapattoni was one of those who harboured doubts, but he has quickly reassured himself that life in Russia has lifted McGeady onto another level. "The best in the picture," the manager said of McGeady's performance. In other words, the star of the show.

"He has improved his performance and his personality. He is very self-confident now. As for his first shot at goal I think maybe a year ago he wouldn't have done it. I always believed he could do it. The same thing I said to Gibson. The players have extraordinary potential but sometimes they are not aware of it. It's up to us to give them the trust."

Last night it worked for him. Hairy at times, maybe, but it worked. For Trapattoni it is an ongoing quest to build a side that is able to express itself while retaining the solidity and rigorous organisation that has been the hallmark of so many of his teams. He feels now that they might be getting there.

"I always explain to them the difference between a show and a result," he said. "We have to be able to understand when it is time to do a show and time for a result. I explain to them when and how we are supposed to take the initiative without running any risks."

The only risk he runs now is upsetting Mick McCarthy who sees Kevin Doyle returning with a medial ligament injury that Trapattoni estimated would take "one or two months" to heal. For now it is all brightness in his world. He looked back for regrets: the missed penalty in Slovakia, Macedonia's squandered penalty against Russia. "The group is very evenly balanced," he said. Enough to be happy about.

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