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Vincent Hogan: Betrayal? Trap was just doing his job

Let's be perfectly clear on what Giovanni Trapattoni did in Montecatini this week. His job. The act that unwrapped a smorgasbord of pious lunacy in some quarters answered the most basic expectation of a man in his position.

Trapattoni made a football decision. The omission of Kevin Foley was, clearly, difficult, but had he lacked the stomach for that kind of call, all we'd have to show for €1.2m per annum would be a crèche of very rich, oversized children.

Foley's immediate disappointment got the better of him and that's forgivable.

But, in a world ablaze with images of starvation and massacre, the elevation of his story to front-page editorial status implied a pretty breath-taking national immaturity.

Foley is a decent professional who, essentially, became the victim of a series of injuries to other players. The professional in Trapattoni decreed that pragmatism had to over-ride sentiment in how he dealt with those injuries. He's a manager, not a social worker.

What Foley termed "betrayal" was, of course, nothing of the sort. It was a decision as logical as supporting the base of a ladder with something solid before cleaning your windows. Paul McShane covers two positions in defence; Foley covers one. Circumstance forced a change of mind. Unless you have the IQ of a door, it isn't complex.

All things going to plan, Foley would not have kicked a ball competitively in Poland anyway. McShane, similarly, will do well to find himself sprung from the bench.

So it wasn't quite Saipan, was it? It wasn't the team's captain and best player slipping into some kind of complex meltdown that, a full decade later, still generates mystery, recrimination and a whole lot of empty noise.

But you can already sense something in the wind here. The word from Italy is that Trapattoni's decision "upset" some of Foley's friends within the squad and, to me, that sounds suspiciously like a pre-emptive strike. It certainly has the scent of something we may see recycled if the Republic's Euro campaign peters out feebly.

'Foley's eviction the first sign of unravelling morale in the squad?'

Honestly, if we read that anywhere post June 18 and the perpetrator is subsequently found beaten to the edge of consciousness with a bat, just give this column's name to 'Crimecall'.

Should Ireland make little impact at the tournament, it won't be because a replacement full-back stayed at home. It will be because those on the pitch didn't do it.

You try to imagine Trapattoni's evening calls home to his beloved Paola. She has watched him take his knowledge into the world's most intimidating dressing-rooms and never once mistaken what he did as anything trickier than getting adult footballers to co-operate as a group.

This, after all, is a man whose public outburst against three German internationals "weak like a bottle empty" while Bayern Munich coach has taken more than a million hits on YouTube.

But it seems we want him to be a mix of Winston Churchill and Marjorie Proops.

"Paola, they accuse me of betrayal!"

"Why beloved?"

"Because I do the right thing!"

Nobody burnt Kevin Foley's house down this week. He won't spend the next fortnight cleaning grumpy commuters' windscreens at rush-hour traffic lights. He's just facing the awful prospect of an extra three weeks off with his family, probably in some affluent resort where there's champagne with the buffet breakfast.

Yes, the timing of the news was awful, but circumstance decreed that.

I don't doubt that, with the benefit of time, Foley will recognise the needless melodrama of his words this week. His career suggests he is cut from the same cloth as all the best full-backs, those who operate with the tidy calm of good waiters.

But threatening to make himself unavailable for future Trapattoni squads smacked of a schoolboy tantrum. He'll surely regret that.

True, the Italian did not have to finalise his tournament squad quite as early as he chose, but -- presumably -- he did so to avoid precisely this kind of awkwardness. Trouble is he started doing the sums and saw too many asterisks under names. Trapattoni had a choice. Act or pray.

The great managers don't light candles for their bonuses.

Irish Independent