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Unfinished business will keep Trap here

IT would be harsh and hasty to blame the entire Turkish nation for the sneaky and pretty unconvincing attempt to sound out Giovanni Trapattoni which has been under way for a few weeks.

Whether the initial speculation was born in the mind of a bored hack based in Istanbul or an over-zealous Turkish FA blazer, it came as a nasty shock to the system on a slow news day after Christmas -- though less so when repeated earlier in the week.

After taking a hammering on just about every front in 2009, the notion that Trappattoni, one of the very few good things about the year just elapsed, might be spirited away and handed a lucrative career swansong beside the Bosphorus put the tin hat on 12 months we'd all rather forget.


Even the vaguest hint that we might be hurled willy-nilly into another FAI head-hunting operation conducted by Don Givens and his merry men was enough to make the fourth blizzard of the past two weeks seem like a mere inconvenience.

But a moment's reflection was enough to find reassurance from within. There are now ties of pain and unfinished business between Trapattoni and his players, and it would take a dishonourable act to rival even Thierry Henry for him to jump ship after agreeing a new deal with the FAI five months ago.

Nobody who followed him with the Irish team over the past few years could believe that he would be capable of such a devastating breach of trust.

Anyway, the Turkish FA would probably demand a more hands-on approach to scouting and talent spotting then Trapattoni has so far delivered in his current employment if they were, as the rumour goes, prepared to double his salary.

No, Trap is in a place he likes with very little pressure and a big wage. He comes and goes as he pleases and is adored by the nation.

The only issues that furrow his brow are football-related and his personal likes and dislikes are now plain to all. He likes Glenn Whelan. He doesn't like Andy Reid.

He does like his time off, he doesn't like England in the winter and he certainly doesn't fancy the idea of traipsing around Premier League grounds covering the hard miles. As a result, he doesn't know everything he needs to know about his players.

Maybe he will surprise us and deliver a clutch of new names via the new FIFA rules, passports in their hands and green blood running through their veins. There is work under way in that area, but so far nothing definitive on any of the targets and no indication of just how big an effort is being made to recruit lads like Jamie O'Hara and Kyle Naughton.

Perhaps the entire Irish management team has been beavering away since Paris and Trapattoni will shock us and throw young David Meyler or Seamus Coleman in at the deep end between now and June, or give the ever more impressive Jonathon Walters a run.

But Trapattoni does have a big card up his sleeve when he is accused of abandoning a key component of the art of management -- know thy players.

He can point to the team he ended up with in Paris and say with some justification that the 11 players who started against France were the best available to him. Which player could have been replaced and by who?


Would Lee Carsley have done any better than Keith Andrews or Whelan? Probably not. Would Reid have made an impact? Maybe off the bench.

The other alternatives, Steve Finnan, Steven Reid and Stephen Ireland, were all unavailable through injury or intent.

How about Clinton Morrison or Andy O'Brien? Ian Harte? Dean Kiely?

Perhaps, earlier in the group, both Andy Reid and Carsley could have contributed something but let's be honest, everyone earned their keep in the Stade de France on that dramatic night in November.

Perhaps the bigger question that should be asked is a more fundamental one. Why are there so few real alternatives out there? Has the talent pool dried up -- and what happens when Keane, Duff, Dunne and Given decide to quit?

The answer lies further down the food chain than Trapattoni.

There has always been a grey area between underage football and the senior team, and this appears to have widened during Don Givens' time as Republic of Ireland under-21 manager.

Givens has an unhappy knack of falling out with talented, though no doubt petulant and precious, young footballers and his contribution to the whole Stephen Ireland saga was counter-productive.

Clearly, the FAI have no problem with the fact that the under-21s finished bottom of their European Championship qualifying group with four points from a possible 24, and Armenia, Georgia and Estonia ahead of them.

Givens claims that he's only looking at the performances and that qualification for big events is neither here nor there.


It's possible to perform well and win too, but Givens seems to believe that results are unimportant in the grand scheme of things.

By that reasoning, Robbie Keane, Damien Duff, Glenn Whelan, Richard Dunne and Andy Reid learned nothing from their extraordinary experiences with Brian Kerr in 1998 and we could have lived without the delight their European Championship-winning efforts in Scotland and Cyprus created among all football fans 12 years ago -- probably the only trophies the Republic of Ireland will ever win at any level. Givens knows only too well that players develop more quickly when they are happy at their work and full of confidence.

Winning games breeds confidence. Playing at the highest level against the best of your age group in the world broadens horizons and exposes young players to the best kind of football experience.

A string of bad results can undo years of hard work and no player can be content to give away 20 from 24 points in a qualifying group while representing his country, never mind the performance.

The cold simplicity of the situation is this: either the country cannot produce footballers in the Under 21 age group who are better than their opposite numbers in places like Armenia or Georgia, or Givens isn't very good at his job.