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'Fringe' prove Trap wrong

THE issue now is judgement. A manager is nothing if his judgement is faulty and the case against Giovanni Trapattoni is now difficult to resist.

Last night at Craven Cottage, the very players Trapattoni has set himself against for two years proved beyond any doubt that if you allow them to play, take them out of the systemic straight-jacket he has prescribed, they can indeed move a football around a pitch at ground level and win.

They proved that Trapattoni has been wrong to ignore them, wrong to disparage their talent and doubly wrong to turn his squad into a private members club which he controls with an iron fist.

His insulting assertion that the Irish players he meets have bad habits and don't really know how to play the game the way he feels should be played is now just laughable. His system is the problem and that is now very clear to anyone with eyes to see.

Within minutes of the end of a game which was profoundly refreshing to jaded eyes, Trapattoni dragged everyone back into the mire, declaring in a semi-surly and grumpy manner that nothing that was done in a 4-1 win over Oman will have any real impact on his thinking for the next World Cup qualifier against Germany next month.

It was very, very obvious that the last thing he needed was a performance like this. He knew it simply handed ammunition to those who have been calling for change and by now, that's just about everyone other than the those dogged fans who are still under bewitched by the glamour of his reputation and believe that any criticism of an Ireland manager is treason.



POSITIVE

But ignore that foolish rump of Irish support. If we followed their thinking, no manager would ever be criticised and we would spend the next few decades locked into a loop of perpetual failure but singing the Fields of Athenry until our hearts burst.

Brilliant on the night and he might get in the squad but from what Trapattoni said, he has no chance of playing against Germany.

James McClean? He got 30 minutes and almost scored twice. The response from the sparse crowd was very, very positive towards the young Derryman and by extension, negative towards the manager.

Has he any chance of featuring against the Germans? The response was immediate and more definitive than the words look on paper. "Probably not," he said and everyone knew what he meant.

It is one thing for a manager to stick to his vision and come hell or high water, resist every call for change. There is even something admirable about someone with such a strong inner-belief in his own legend.

But when a manager leads a team to a major tournament and fails miserably with a system which was so pitifully inadequate against Croatia, Spain and Italy and yet ploughs on with the same system despite the availability of young and exciting new talent, you have to wonder what is in his head.

It is perverse beyond belief and the reality of Trapattoni's situation is that he has lost his way.

His certainty that Ireland is a backwater nation with decent spirit and not much else has never been diluted and even if a herd of Messis arrived ready to pull on a green shirt and dazzle, he would find some way to exclude them all.

Oman were third rate but that is no reason to undersell what Ireland did last night. From the first touch of the ball, it was clear that the players wanted to play and guided by James McCarthy and David Meyler in midfield, that's just what they did.

Trapattoni, by his actions, has always suggested that Kevin Doyle and Shane Long cannot operate as a pair. Last night that proved to be a ridiculous notion.

Trapattoni reckons that Seamus Coleman can't defend and never picked him but the Everton man operated in three different positions against Oman, right-full, right wing and then central midfield and brought his own unique sense of drive and momentum to the game which was wonderful to watch.

Star of the show was Robbie Brady who has been available for selection for the senior team at any time in the last few years and on last night's showing, should have been picked a long, long time ago.

He made two goals and scored one, a beautiful volley from just outside the box met crisply and cleanly with his left foot and buried in the right corner.

His goal was bracketed by assists for two more, the first a looping cross from the right, headed back into the six-yard box by Sean St Ledger for Long to dispatch with a header which got the scoring under way and then a fantastic out swinging free-kick from the left which Doyle had merely to touch with his forehead for Ireland's third.

It was a debut of great substance and any manager struggling to find a way to make his team play better would welcome with open arms but not Trapattoni.



IMPROVEMENT

He thought Brady could do better and chose instead to highlight Marc Wilson, one of the lesser lights on the night but who gave a decent enough performance while on the pitch,without shooting the lights out.

It would seem as if Trapattoni has made a decision about Stephen Ward at left-full and it isn't good news for the Wolves man. That was probably the manager's priority target from the game.

Oman had no answer to the power and pace they faced. Again, it should be said that they are a poor team but so were Kazakhstan.

If Ireland had delivered this performance in Astana, they would have blown Kazakhstan away in 20 minutes and Trapattoni would be luxuriating in the knowledge that he had three points in the bag and a posse of new players to help him move on from his stilted and deeply negative game plan.

But no.

This changed nothing for the man who won't be moved.

Nobody is suggesting that he should dump Ireland's senior players and throw youth at the Germans but there was barely a flicker of enthusiasm from Trapattoni for a bunch of young lads who offered hope and optimism in big dollops to everyone else watching.

The clock is winding down and all we can hope is that Trapattoni will do as little damage as possible before he leaves us and heads back to Milan with his wallet bulging.


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