Thursday 14 December 2017

Comments of players are meaningless and driven by self-interest

The squad were always going to back Trapattoni, to suggest otherwise is daft, writes Richard Sadlier

In February 2002, Alex Ferguson called the Manchester United squad to a meeting and told them he had reversed his decision to retire. He would be renewing his contract with the club and would remain in charge for the foreseeable future. There was no round of applause or celebrations, but Roy Keane considered the impact of the news the moment Ferguson left the room. "Well, that's you fucked, Yorkie".

Dwight Yorke had been out of the team at that point and his relationship with Ferguson was worsening. The announcement meant his spell on the bench looked set to continue. As in every dressing-room, honest opinions on the future of the manager are based largely, if not exclusively, on self-interest.

I was astonished to read claims that Ireland players were canvassed for their views on Giovanni Trapattoni last week. Actually, it was more disappointment in the FAI than surprise in what they had supposedly done. John Delaney, the FAI's CEO, yesterday denied the players' views were a decisive factor, but he did say that he was aware of support for the manager in the squad, which he brought to the attention of the board.

Indeed, the weight given in media circles to comments of support from the players made little sense to me. I don't know why people would expect them to say anything else, but views of players should never be considered in situations like this. In fact, players should have no role in the hiring or firing of their manager, the dressing-room should be kept well out of it.

Why people thought they'd be anything but fully supportive is beyond me. If I was in their position, I too would have given him my full backing. The appetite for change among Ireland fans is well known to the players, so it is hardly in their interest to endorse it by criticising Trapattoni.

Also, the culture of leaks in Irish football increase the likelihood of their views becoming public, so full support was the only option for all. As much as we can imagine the views of James McClean, Shane Long or Steven Kelly, for example, it would look terrible if they spoke out against him. And their Ireland careers would be finished if they did and he remained in charge. No player would risk that, and why should they?

Robbie Keane made his thoughts clear prior to Tuesday's game. He said he was fully behind the manager. Trapattoni was sitting next to him at the time, and had just named him in the team for the game despite repeated calls to play others ahead of him. In any case, Keane has spent a career serving up bland platitudes and clichés in all his dealings with the press, so there was nothing else he was going to do here. Rendering all his subsequent comments meaningless, he once gave a full-throated defence of Steve Staunton on the Late Late Show just before he was sacked.

Keith Andrews and Darren O'Dea gave their public support to the decision to stick with Trapattoni also, but like Keane, both have a lot to lose if he is replaced.

One newspaper quoted a 'senior figure' in the association saying the Faroe Islands match would be Trapattoni's last game in charge but the FAI board of management clearly balked at the huge cost of sacking the manager and the long-term investment needed for his successor. Keeping newspapers updated should not have been a concern of the 'senior figure'. If there was no leak, as the FAI are suggesting, it should have been denied at the time to limit disruption to the preparations. And pointing to victories over Kazakhstan and the Faroe Islands as cause for optimism is nonsense also.

Trapattoni ran rings around the FAI all week without breaking sweat, but the notion the FAI can influence him in how he does the job for the remainder of his contract is laughable.

Apparently, Trapattoni is either open to change or has been told to change. The most ludicrous suggestion of all is that Delaney or his colleagues on the board can bring it about. If Trapattoni was wavering in his self-belief or starting to doubt his methods at any point last week, I missed it. If he gave the impression that John Delaney is someone he seeks out for advice and guidance, I missed that too. Trapattoni will continue to do what he has always done, and in keeping him employed the FAI have backed him and his methods completely.

You either let him do it his way or you find someone else. They're a deluded bunch if they think there's any other option.

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