Thursday 22 March 2018

Angry Trap rounds on stay-away stars and Irish attitudes after withdrawals

‘If they’re in hospital or they are dead it’s ok. Otherwise they should be here’

Giovanni Trapattoni was in feisty form ahead of tonight's Nations Cup
game against Northern Ireland. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Giovanni Trapattoni was in feisty form ahead of tonight's Nations Cup game against Northern Ireland. Photo: Stephen McCarthy / Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

"I'm tough as nails," joked Giovanni Trapattoni, when asked about his health as he took his seat in Dublin's Hilton Airport Hotel.

The cheerful disposition didn't last for too long. Turned out this was one angry 72-year-old.

While a country was falling over itself to greet a famous visitor, the Irish manager was left wondering why some of his invitations had been snubbed.

With every word, his annoyance rose and what followed was an outburst at certain Irish players who he feels have a questionable attitude to their profession. Twice, he apologised for getting emotional. And then, in the next breath, he was talking about Pontius Pilate.

The targets weren't immediately obvious, with the exception of Anthony Stokes, who had already informed management that he was missing this week's Carling Nations games, the qualifier with Macedonia, and the friendly with Italy, because he's 'tired'.


Later on, it became apparent that Trapattoni was frustrated with Caleb Folan's latest pull-out through injury, confused that Leon Best could have appeared as a substitute for Newcastle on Sunday when the FAI were sure he was injured, and astonished that one player had failed to respond to any messages about his call-up.

"I will not say the name," he insisted. Later on, FAI sources confirmed the player in question was James McCarthy. Mystery surrounded the whereabouts of the 20-year-old last night. Trapattoni and the FAI have been unable to make contact with the Wigan star in the past couple of weeks, despite making 'seven or eight' attempts.

Normal procedure ahead of such international gatherings is to speak in advance about arranging flights and other logistics. However, neither management or Abbotstown have heard a word from McCarthy, who was part of the Wigan team that avoided relegation on Sunday.

The overall situation has left Trap feeling bitter and he launched a stinging critique of the modern footballer.

"It is unbelievable," he said. "I don't know if it's the education of Irish players. In Italy, you must go with your country. That's what you do.

"But our job, it's like a game. It's a fun job. It's like a man who is working. For me, football is an 11-month holiday. But there are players who say, 'oh, I am tired'. For me it is unbelievable, it is impossible.

"We must educate our players. I say to players, always, 'What is your father's job? What time does he get up? 6.0? 7.0? We get up at 10.0 because we have training. We are lucky to be in professional sports.' I have said this many times. We have to realise that. It's the life of Riley."

In contrast to the quartet who are firmly in the bad books, defenders Sean St Ledger and Darren O'Dea were held up as the shining example. They have reported with injuries, but have indicated a desire to play.

Trapattoni can relate to that. He can't relate to Stokes. The Dubliner could have staked a claim this week due to depleted resources. Trapattoni considers West Brom's Simon Cox, who makes his debut against Northern Ireland this evening, a similar type of player.

Stokes was subsequently mentioned in a sentence with Lee Carsley, Andy Reid and the phrase, "we don't forget." That's the international football version of sleeping with the fishes.

With regard to Best and conflicting injury bulletins, Trapattoni spoke of trust. "He's fit or he's not fit. Sometimes, the answer is yes or no," he said.

And Folan, now based in the MLS with Colorado Rapids. "I call him. I said to him, 'You know how many SMS I send?' Sometimes I don't know if it's the players or the club.

"When I look for examples, there is St Ledger and O'Dea, they say 'we go, we come to be assessed'. But when the player is indecisive... Go up, go back, go back. They must come in with injuries. If they are in hospital, or they are dead, it's ok. But when it's injury, come in, see the doctors. See if they are ok, today or tomorrow, or wait another week.

"I'm sorry for the outburst," he continued, "But this leaves me bitter. I'm disappointed. You have time to rest, you have holidays, time for this situation. The players must be educated.

"Maybe the managers must educate. Some managers call me, like in March, and say they have a difficult moment and maybe need one or two players to be rested or not play a full game and that's ok, that's good, that's communication..."

In short, he's not a happy bunny. Trapattoni concedes that, in some respects, he has an old fashioned approach to commitment issues.

Back-up goalkeeper Joe Murphy is missing from this trip because his wife is expecting a baby. He was warned, by team-mate Andy Keogh, that the boss would be unsympathetic. When Keogh was in the same situation, Trapattoni asked if he was having the baby himself.

In verifying that story, he revealed that he was puzzled by expectant fathers absenting themselves from matches.

Richard Dunne and Jonathan Walters are others to have taken time off in the last year due to additions to the family, although if the manager was aware of the complications that followed the birth of the Stoke striker's first child -- who was born with an unusual condition that required a lengthy stay in hospital -- he might understand why the 27-year-old would be keen to stay with his partner.

Trapattoni missed the birth of one of his children due to a Milan derby, so his views on the matter are strident.

"There is a different habit here," he said. "Ok, if he's the doctor, that's a reason. But if they are just waiting outside the room, walking up and down the corridor. No, sorry, that's not for me."

Dunne and Walters were forgiven, of course, while Murphy might be given another opportunity to move up the pecking order again.

Those who are missing from action for less obvious reasons may have to wait a while longer to find their way back into the manager's affections.

Irish Independent

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