Monday 18 November 2019

Daniel McDonnell: Trap cutting off nose to spite his face

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

BY punishing James McClean, Giovanni Trapattoni is in danger of punishing himself. Leaving the Sunderland winger on the bench for a friendly that was a perfect opportunity to further his education is a dangerous move.

One suspects that, when McClean is introduced, he will receive a cheer which indicates the huge level of support for the sentiment of his Friday night tweet.

While going public was extremely naive and ill-judged, the 23-year-old was typing what a lot of people were thinking.

And they'll be saying the same when they hear that Andy Keogh, a Championship striker, is in line to get the nod ahead of a Premier League winger for the clash with Oman.

There's a school of thought which says that Trapattoni had no option but to drop McClean for the fixture. The logic is that picking the Derry man for the game would be a sign of weakness, as somehow bowing to his post-match outburst.

An understandable point of view, perhaps, but far more relevant to the club game than the international sphere.

Trapattoni always says that the limitations of time prevent him from bringing about real change. In that regard, friendlies shouldn't be wasted. His intention to pick Seamus Coleman, David Meyler, Robbie Brady and Marc Wilson is very welcome indeed.

These games should be an opportunity for players that management need to know more about. Keogh already has 23 caps. After a good start to the season with Millwall, there is an argument that he should see action as a striker at some stage tomorrow. Utilising him on the left is a complete waste of time.

McClean is the natural option. Plumping for him couldn't possibly be construed as feeble management. It's the logical step, given that he has started two of Ireland's most recent friendly games.

Bringing a humbled player in front of the group to apologise on Saturday was enough to remind him who is boss.

Combined with the angry response of senior team-mates in Kazakhstan, the winger has hopefully learned a harsh lesson. But part of forgiveness is forgetting, and, while Trapattoni said yesterday that a line was drawn under the issue, the push towards Keogh suggests otherwise. Picking McClean for the Oman fixture would make talk of closure on the incident far more believable.

We now know what the player thinks about his status in the camp, so nobody is suddenly going to believe that he's content to sit on the bench and watch a forward player operate in his best position.

For the sake of the team, it would make more sense to accelerate McClean's international education. Trapattoni effectively left him out of the side last Friday because he doesn't believe he is ready, so passing up an obvious chance to bed him further into the system is senseless.

Remember, while McClean might have been stupid to log on in the anguish of last Friday night, he does have genuine reason to be aggrieved.

Last month, in Serbia, he was used as a guinea pig in a short-lived formation change.

McClean kicked off the game in a central midfield role and after a promising start, his unfamiliarity soon became apparent.

removed

He was then shifted to the left wing prior to half-time, and removed on the hour mark.

The struggles in an alien berth were cited afterwards as indicative of his youth. Others would argue that it was a wasted chance to see him thrive in a pressure-free environment.

Trapattoni is intent on replacing Damien Duff with a natural striker because he wants a goal threat from wide, but McClean has a knack for coming up with goals. Simon Cox offered nothing in Kazakhstan against a team who didn't enjoy the physical directness that McClean offers -- as illustrated by Kevin Doyle's driving run down the flank to create the equaliser.

With two competitive games in October, and no confirmation yet of November plans, it's entirely possible that McClean could have to wait until 2013 for his next Irish start. That can't be good for anybody.

Trapattoni was at pains to stress that his biggest gripe with the Twitter indiscretion was that it showed a lack of respect for the rest of the group.

The point was that the team comes before any personalities. A fair call, but flawed in the context of this dispute.

If the team is everything, then McClean should be in it. Because all the evidence suggests that it would be a better one.

Irish Independent

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