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Trap's gloves are off

IT'S often difficult to pinpoint the exact moment when a relationship breaks down but in years to come, it could well be that this is the time referenced as pivotal when the story is told of Giovanni Trapattoni's break-up with the Irish football team.

Maybe the hours before the Russia game when Trapattoni gave his final instructions to players were more significant.

Players who thought that the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign would pick up where they left off in Paris were clearly unhappy when they discovered that a tactical straitjacket was the clothing of choice for the journey ahead.

But even though Richard Dunne was openly critical of his manager after the defeat, Trapattoni chose diplomacy rather than confron-tation and, facing more pressure than at any other time in his spell with Ireland, kept his thoughts to himself.

But the gloves came off in the Clarion Airport Hotel yesterday when he gave his final assessment of the year and expressed open irritation about his players' inability to learn simple lessons.

He questioned the commitment of any player who would leave the squad to be with "his son".

"I don't want that sort of player," he said, immediately alienating Darron Gibson, another talented ball-playing midfielder to feel a chill emanating from his international manager and currently dealing with illness of his daughter Evie.

It was a strange moment but there were more to follow. Asked why, after three years battering his message into the players, they are still making the same mistakes, he could barely contain his frustration.

He gave a physical demonstration of one unnamed player who sits back, admires his work after a pass and then wanders aimlessly out of the action.

Gibson again or perhaps Andy Reid? Who knows? Actually, the player himself knows and when he reads Trapattoni's comments, a review of his involvement with the Irish squad might be in order.

Trapattoni spoke about the bad habits players have picked up in England, or indeed Ireland if you want to take it back to the start. This is a favourite subject and the one which occupied him most of all in the early months.

He put down a nice provisional ball, didn't he? Tell everyone he's working with badly coached players and when they start playing well, he gets the brownie points.

Fair enough if his work has helped eradicate stupid errors but it hasn't and so far, the running total for his services is nigh on €6m. In fact, Trapattoni absolved himself of all responsibility for the fact that the Irish team has had a poor year in terms of results and a poor year in terms of performance.

There is little doubt that his players make the mistakes he spoke about. The team has been leaking goals but it is impossible to analyse the reasons for this without focusing first on the manager. Perhaps the impromptu player gatherings in Paris were much more significant that we ever imagined. Perhaps Trapattoni lost his grip on the squad in that moment -- just a fraction but enough.

The big question after France and the best Irish performance seen in years was whether the impetus came from the players or the manager.

That debate remains unresolved but what is certain is that the decision to pull back from Paris and reassert the catenaccio mindset was taken by Trapattoni and not by the players -- Dunne's critical words underline that fact.


It looks like Trapattoni views Paris as an unlikely aberration and once he put some distance between himself and the surge in optimism which seeped through the disappointment caused by Thierry Henry's car crash moment, he slipped back into his comfort zone.

He paid lip service to the notion of change by throwing Keith Fahey in as central midfielder against Norway but necessity forced his hand in the case of Greg Cunningham.

Finding a replacement for Kevin Kilbane is a matter of urgency and that's why Cunningham got a game. The right-full slot has a queue and Coleman is at the back of it.

Trapattoni would almost certainly leave Coleman out of his squad if he had to choose between the Everton man and Paul McShane and there lies the nub of the problem.

Trapattoni is deeply suspicious of change and circumstances he cannot micro-manage. As a result, he will favour the less gifted over someone like Coleman, who must stand in line and learn the Trapattoni message before he's let loose on the pitch.

Cunningham has been exposed to Trapattoni often enough to know the score but Coleman hasn't featured in the squad at all and that, surely, is the fault of the manager.