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Empty feeling in Trap's escape act

UNLESS there's a massive airlift of Greek waiters from London and its environs, the FAI must face up to the prospect of vast prairies of empty seats at the Aviva Stadium in November. Last night, the FAI Board flew in the face of carefully choreographed leaks which emerged on Monday morning - two days after Ireland were battered into submission by a rampant German side - and decided that Giovanni Trapattoni would stay on as Ireland manager for the foreseeable future.

Clearly, someone in Abbotstown read the tea leaves very badly indeed and flew a kite which had so much weight attached that it could only stay aloft on a strong wind of change.

On Tuesday night in Torshavn, Trapattoni rose above it all and called the FAI's monumental bluff. Back me or sack me, he said in so many words and they had to back him.

The rationale used for the Board to come to a conclusion which was the polar opposite of the clear message expressed anonymously by a senior figure in the FAI must have been wonderful to behold.

Surprise

It's a long, long way from "out by Friday" to "continue to work closely with the manager", a manager who from his own comments is anything but close to anyone in Abbotstown.

This was a surprise to the media covering Trapattoni since the start. He always seemed close to CEO John Delaney and is often pictured with him when there's a public engagement outside normal squad routine.

But according to Trapattoni, Delaney has only been out to the team base a handful of times, underlining how much latitude the Italian enjoys while managing Ireland's senior international affairs.

Whether intentional or not, Trapattoni placed his current CEO down the list of his favourites when he said that only one President/CEO had impressed him during a long career and that was Giampiero Boniperti, a prolific Juve striker who moved upstairs when he retired from playing and eventually became the club President.

"He wouldn't judge depending on win or lose. He would take a decision and stick to his decision. The president is the president," he said and at this point, Manuela Spinelli interjected to explain that when Trapattoni said President, he also meant CEO.

"He has responsibility. He decides what happens or doesn't happen."

Trapattoni also wondered openly whether his relationship with Delaney had changed.

"When we're in Portmarnock, John Delaney there three times in three years because we called him for a situation. It's not that we see each other all the time, it's never been like that. So no change. But after a bad result, rumours, fans and media criticism, maybe change."

He agreed that ultimately, he would have to accept whatever call was made by the FAI.

"If the FAI say 'you're being put aside', then I can only accept it - with an explanation."

Events have now overtaken these comments and he's not going anywhere right now.

As a result, so many questions have been left hanging in the air. Will there be an investigation to uncover the identity of the senior source of the leaks?

Was finance the main reason the FAI simply could not afford to sack Trapattoni and where does Denis O'Brien figure in all of this?

Most of all, where now for Ireland under a manager who by all normal standards should be packing his bags?

Only metaphorically in Trapattoni's case since he rarely arrives in Ireland with anything other than cabin luggage.

That's the huge problem the FAI have landed themselves in. Everything Trapattoni didn't do before Euro 2012 led to the results and performances in Poland, Astana and the Aviva and that hasn't changed.

Complex

Only when forced by circumstances to consider young legs and minds did we see an improvement against the Faroe Islands and a second away win in the group. Unfortunately, Trapattoni's smooth rebuttal of what was clearly an attempt to railroad him out of the job has left him holding all the high ground.

If the primary reason for retaining Trapattoni this time was an economic one, perhaps a better strategy would have been to sit down with him and insist, at the very least, that he performs the fundamentals of the job, including regular attendance at games in England.

The issue of whether his contract should have been renewed six months ago is complex. After qualification, it would have taken a brave soul to deny Trapattoni if he came looking for a new deal.

We simply don't know whether the motivation for giving him one was a mutual thing or came about as a result of pressure applied by Trapattoni.

That he is still in demand is in no doubt. It was very obvious in Kazakhstan that the oil-rich football men of that remarkable country would build him a palace if he would come help oversee the work of the Germans currently overhauling their football industry. He certainly won't starve.

He was adamant that he would continue in football and indicated as much quite cryptically when he said that all would be made clear next week. It's anyone's guess what he meant by that and perhaps now we'll never know.

What we do know is we're stuck with him and after this fiasco, the only thing that will shift him before the maracas fall silent in 2014 is another calamity like the one endured at the hands of Germany. Nobody wants that.

Even the reduced terms of his contract are a heavy burden on an association living under the dark shadow of the Aviva debt and considerable repayments to make in the coming months and years.

Hindsight

With hindsight, it could be seen as foolhardy to give him a new deal before Euro 2012. Had the FAI hedged, they could have waved goodbye after Poland and saved themselves a lot of money.

But at the time, there was an equally reasonable argument to be made for extending his contract to secure his services for another campaign.

He delivered and without him, the FAI would not be in receipt of €8m from UEFA for Ireland's involvement in the Euro 2012 finals.


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