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No breaking with history


Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni. Picture: Eddie Keogh/REUTERS

GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI always has room for another memory, another big game and, of course, he always holds centre stage no matter how big the occasion.

On this particular occasion, it's an even-money bet that he hasn't quite grasped the intensity of feeling between Ireland and England down through the centuries.

From what he said yesterday, he sees the game as an extension of FIFA's successful Fair Play policy rather than the end of a long and bitter feud.

Add to that his complete lack of understanding of the sensitivities surrounding James McCarthy when Trapattoni questioned his commitment to the shirt and it is easy to say that the 800-year history of confrontation between the Irish and the English may well have passed him by.

But he's a football man and football men don't pay too much attention to the real world unless they have to. While politicians and military men fight over lines on a map, he wins battles with set-pieces and catenaccio.

"The culture has changed and grows. FIFA and UEFA make a great job with Fair Play. We saw this (hooliganism) in every country. But the response has been very good. Look at the two German teams Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League final. We can forget the past."

We can indeed, but it will take something a bit more substantial than an initiative from football's governing bodies to put a tin hat on the problems between Ireland and England, which stretch back into the mists of time.

Trapattoni's focus for this game against England revolves around his own reputation in the world game much more than an historical confrontation between once bitter enemies.

That's why he won't be experimenting and that's why he has picked what he sees as his strongest team with Wes Hoolahan and Robbie Brady left kicking their heels until Trapattoni sees fit to spring them from the bench.



Trapattoni claimed Anthony Pilkington's absence was the key factor in binning any attempt to shift Ireland's playing pattern to a five-man midfield.

"With Pilkington, it was a chance to test this new situation, Robbie and Hoolahan up front for example. But with Pilkington missing, I could not change. We can change in the second half but we start with a strong balance."

But that is just nonsense. Pilkington has never played international football and Trapattoni has seen him play no more than a handful of times. No international manager in his right mind would build a new system on a player like that.

And so Jon Walters find himself out on the right flank, Aiden McGeady on the left and Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy anchoring midfield against an England team Trapattoni respects.

"This England team is solid and has balance. All players play in the Premier League and with the best teams in the Premier League.

"They play many times together and they know their own strength."

Trapattoni doesn't think he will need much of a team talk before the game: "When there is a little bit of tension for a game like this, I don't need to give them more pressure or tension.

"The players will be tense enough. I give them assurance and trust and then we can play.

"No. This is like the great games in the Euros. It is a great opportunity to show against a great team how it is possible to play football like them."

Trapattoni, however, has more than one eye on the Faroe Islands and will use his bench fully to help preserve energy for the World Cup qualifier on June 7.

"It is my duty to watch this situation very carefully. We have six changes we can make and our main aim is the Faroe Islands.

"All the players have played a tough season, I know this and I have to preserve energy for the Faroes."

As a small postscript, it is worthwhile noting that the selection of Stephen Kelly at left full-back represents something of a departure for Trapattoni.

Kelly is the first man to fall out spectacularly with the Ireland manager and find a way back into one of his teams, proof that even the most trenchant can change when needs must.

IRELAND: David Forde; Séamus Coleman, John O'Shea, Seán St Ledger, Stephen Kelly; Jon Walters, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan, Aiden McGeady; Shane Long, Robbie Keane (capt).

ENGLAND (probable): Hart (Manchester City), Johnson (Liverpool), Jagielka (Everton), Cahill (Chelsea), Cole (Chelsea) Lampard (Chelsea), Carrick (Manchester United), Walcott (Arsenal), Rooney (Manchester United), Oxlade-Chamberlain (Arsenal) Sturridge (Liverpool).