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Trap has new testament

LAST week when Giovanni Trapattoni was in the Vatican for the launch of the Clericus Cup, he was treated with a reverence normally reserved for purple hats. Maybe football managers are more credible than cardinals in these strange days.

But it is in the nature of the game that custard pies often follow great success with an unmerciful splat. One man's legend is another man's loser.

Trapattoni's fundamental faith in the Catholic Church guarantees him a hotline to the holy as was clearly demonstrated by the enthusiasm shown for him to take over Vatican City FC when he retires from active management.

But here in this battered and bruised little parish, we've had two years to view him in action and, with a more intimate knowledge of his ways, we now know he's a sinner.

The sin of omission, pride and cruelty have been committed regularly since he arrived on gilded wings and most of the sinning was centred on the person of Andy Reid.

Trapattoni is also guilty of choosing a virtual form of management in front of his television at his home in Milan, aided by Marco Tardelli in London whose role is not entirely clear.


Without Liam Brady to help, more work will fall into Tardelli's lap and we must hope that his easy laugh can help oil the wheels where someone like Jamie O'Hara is concerned.

Trapattoni and Tardelli do things at their own pace. While many wondered why a talented young player like Marc Wilson seemed to have been forgotten somehow, they kept their eye on the ball and found a time to pick him.

He's in for the Brazil game and not before time. No matter what happens to Portsmouth in the short and medium term, Wilson will easily find work in the Premier League if the club folds.

All the old pros out there question the fact that Trapattoni doesn't go to see matches and cannot, therefore, have a true feeling for the players he's managing, but, somehow, he stitched together a team from a group of players dragged low by poor management and their own failings and almost made it to South Africa.

Yesterday, Trapattoni returned to work on the project which placed him slap bang in the middle of the brightest spotlight in world football last November, and he did so with an assessment of the Republic of Ireland senior squad which is much more positive than the one he gave two years back.

He spoke yesterday about the squad taking a step up and underlined the importance of a new start but from a much higher base.

He opened the door to new thinking and new systems, telling us what we already knew: players make systems, not the other way around.

Trapattoni will give James McCarthy a decent run against Brazil at the Emirates in a week's time and, if everything said and written about the young lad turns out to be accurate, he might even build a team around him if he has enough time.

He obviously believes that it would be possible to move on from the orthodox 4-4-2 he used throughout the World Cup qualifying campaign and, if he is true to his word, he will once again try to approach Stephen Ireland with that in mind.

He keeps talking about Ireland, and mostly when he's asked about someone else, but then urges caution and tells us that too much talk will drive the Corkman further away.

Perhaps we should have a sponsored talk-in then. Does anyone really want him back at this stage? Perhaps if he showed some humility, but there's no sign of that.

Which brings us, inevitably, back to Andy Reid and the nature of sin. Trapattoni is fortunate that Reid's top-notch season to date is now at a standstill because of injury.

If Reid was fit and playing as well as he was in late autumn now, it would be difficult to talk about changing systems to suit players with a straight face.

But the context is more complicated and, when Trapattoni sat down with his building blocks, he looked to the flanks and the relative strength he found there.

Without the smorgasbord of talent he usually works with, and dealing with players who he believes have fundamental flaws in their game because of an upbringing that isn't Italian, he set about eliminating mistakes and keeping things simple.

By the time we got to Paris, something else kicked in and Trapattoni was perhaps surprised by the level of performance achieved.

Now he has to do more or at least that's the expectation out there. He's still short in many of the same positions as before but there are now some realistic young alternatives on the horizon -- like McCarthy, Cunningham, Seamus Coleman and, dare we mention him, O'Hara.

You can be certain that O'Hara is under serious pressure from those around him. No doubt there's an agent or six in the wings wondering whether Fabio Capello might take a chance on a bright young thing and bring him to South Africa.

That would be a difficult trinket to ignore if it was dangled in front of any young man and perhaps Trapattoni is waiting to allow nature to take its course.

Though it will make the web forum fundamentalists fulminate about Irishness and who should qualify to wear green, Trapattoni has no such baggage.


Those who fear an influx of Englishmen looking for a meal ticket shouldn't worry too much because Trapattoni requires one thing above all else in any player who works with him: commitment.

He may have to wait until Capello announces his World Cup squad for a definitive answer from O'Hara, but he will look the kid in the eye and ask the right question if he decides wants to play for Ireland.

Of course the mere fact that O'Hara would even consider England is enough to put many Irish fans off but, in the real world, footballers make pragmatic decisions and, over the years, we haven't done badly out of those who chose Ireland above their place of birth.