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The man we'd all like to see


Martin O'Neill. Picture: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

THESE days, Ireland fans know what it feels like to stand with nose pressed up against the toystore window ogling shiny new playthings while they make do with something old and frayed around the edges.

A sharp wind of change is blowing through European football and in the Premier League managers would do well to check Twitter before they go to bed in case they've been digitally dumped.

Football managers are more disposable now than ever before yet Giovanni Trapattoni ploughs on, the only coach in the world who remains bulletproof. He's some man.

A new crop of young players with a greater range of talents than Ireland have enjoyed in many years has emerged yet optimism is muted.

There is hope on the horizon, however, with the news that Martin O'Neill could be the next man in, although the vast majority of those who have the interests of the Ireland senior team at heart would like to see that happen tomorrow.

Unfortunately, we must work our way through the process and for every month Trapattoni stays in his seat, new offers from other clubs and countries will be placed in front of O'Neill.

After Alex Ferguson retired, the sense of an era ending has become stronger and stronger and Trapattoni stands as an ageing bulwark against the tide of progress and change.

Over the weekend gone, Trapattoni felt the need to verbally run a finger down his ever-more tedious list of achievements, no doubt stung by the damburst of praise enveloping Ferguson and keen to mark out his territory in the land of legends.

In some, age brings grace and acceptance but in Trapattoni's case, the heart of a determined young man beats inside a body less and less equipped for the stresses and strains of full-time management.

Not that he has had to deal with much stress himself over the last five years. It would be impossible to find a cushier number.

His suggestion that he would sit down with the FAI and talk about a new contract when the time is right for all parties was just another example of his remarkable ego, a force of nature which has powered an inner hunger common to all great football managers.

But it was a ridiculous suggestion based on the same old hackneyed line he has been pedalling for the last 10 months; the one which exalts Trapattoni as the architect of much-needed change and a greater reliance on youth.

Trapattoni made it difficult for every one of the long list of young lads to make the leap to senior status and no matter what the rights and wrongs of the current situation regarding Anthony Pilkington, there is every reason to believe that his assimilation will be as messy and awkward as it was for James McCarthy, Marc Wilson, Jon Walters, James McClean and Seamus Coleman.

It's almost as if Trapattoni believes he must set his own test over and above the simple reality of the right passport before he will let anyone darken his door.

In the case of all of the players listed above, terrible communication and an inability to grasp the realities of living in the 21st century created needless strife and, in McCarthy's case in particular, there was a crass lack of understanding of the sensitivities involved.

Pilkington is getting married and like any other young man in such circumstances, must cope with a range of demands which are, most likely, foreign to his nature.

Like hiring caterers and picking the right shade of gold for the embossed invites.

According to his club and, more importantly, manager Chris Hughton, he has a knee injury which requires treatment.

If the game against England next week was a competitive one, Trapattoni would be within his rights to insist that players should be checked out by the FAI medical team. But like Robbie Keane and the LA Galaxy, Norwich are under no obligation to release him from their rehab programme for a friendly.

If his knee is bothering him (and we have no reason to doubt Hughton) and causing collateral hamstring strain, a fully competitive game three weeks after the end of the season would not seem wise.

That said, it may well be that Pilkington's wife, Jolene, has exercised her right to see Trap as a septuagenarian gooseberry and decided that his involvement in their upcoming nuptials and her honeymoon is neither appropriate nor welcome.



We'll never know although there is a better than even chance that Pilkington will see the sun rise with his new wife on many, many mornings before his name appears in an Ireland squad again.

It could have been different if someone had grasped the nettle immediately after Euro 2012 or late last year but, in this instance, doing nothing has helped the FAI.

O'Neill would not have been available in November but he is now and if the grapevine is accurate, more than interested in the job if there was a vacancy. Anyone got a spare million?