Wednesday 21 March 2018

Nothing certain for Trapattoni ahead of judgement day

Not selecting James McClean for Euro 2012 would be a major error, writes Dion Fanning

James McClean
James McClean

Dion Fanning

Only in Giovanni Trapattoni's world could the manager say that James McClean has a "90 to 99 per cent" chance of making the Ireland squad and the general response suggest that most people are expecting the one per cent outcome.

Trapattoni may know his own mind but he is also expert at ignoring the public's opinion, so even after his statement last week, nobody would be surprised if McClean was left out of tomorrow's squad for the Ireland friendly against Bosnia and the European Championships.

With Trapattoni nobody knows. One player told a friend last week that he expected to find out if he had made it by turning on Sky Sports News tomorrow. "Nobody has a clue," one source close to the players said on Friday. In his Irish Examiner column yesterday, Keith Andrews wrote that he thought the FAI might inform players beforehand because of the special nature of the squad announcement.

FAI sources have indicated, however, that they will follow the same procedure, faxing the clubs tomorrow, a system which depends on somebody at the other end picking up the fax and informing the players.

Trapattoni will contact the players who have been placed on stand-by prior to the squad announcement at the Aviva Stadium in the afternoon, but those who are not on standby and not in the squad will have to find out on TV.

The standby group is likely to include Seamus Coleman and possibly James McCarthy. Both were in the original 24-man squad for the Czech Republic game in February but Coleman's season has been disappointing for Everton and he is expected to make way.

Yet, very little is certain. Trapattoni's audience with the press in Mullingar last week led to days of rumour. His comment that there was one player struggling with a problem, which he hinted at being personal, created a media storm.

"Can we wait seven days? It's a serious question and it needs a serious answer but today I'm not in a position to give you that. At this moment we have this situation. I cannot say the name but at the moment we have this situation," he said last Saturday. Last Monday, John Delaney confirmed that he was aware of the situation which led to further speculation but with Trapattoni there is always the danger of everything and nothing being understood.

Keith Fahey missed Friday night's play-off game for Birmingham but he expects to return for this week's second leg while others like Stephen Hunt are back playing, even if it is just on the periphery.

Darron Gibson is injured for Everton's trip to Wolves today, but his club expect him to be fit for the European Championships, while Aiden McGeady has struggled in Russia, but these type of issues rarely make an impact in Trap's world.

His basic principles have not altered. He has always said that he will stay loyal to the players who qualified, but this is not loyalty as some would understand it, but more to do with the manager trusting them to do what he needs them to do.

McClean explained last month how Trapattoni had instructed him to play closer to the midfielders rather than the wide and high position he enjoys at Sunderland. The world sees McClean as creative and industrious, Trapattoni spots the possible calamities in the defensive positions he doesn't fill.

It is a risk-free world which creates its own risk. Not bringing McClean would be a catastrophic error by the manager. In March, FAI figures were certain McClean would miss out but now he looks likely to be involved. He has the potential to be more than just a squad number. McClean promises real impact from the bench and he has the ability to change matches.

If James McCarthy is left out or placed on standby, Trapattoni might be ignoring a player who has everything required to be a top-class midfielder.

McCarthy has been superb for Wigan and appeared to have won Trapattoni over but then he stayed on the bench for the Czech friendly and everyone remembered that winning Trap over takes some doing.

If the manager has been watching the DVDs, he will have seen how McCarthy is not just playing good football but, against the top sides in the Premier League, he has been breaking up play and refusing to let opponents settle.

Even if he makes the squad, McCarthy is unlikely to be involved unless there was an injury to the Whelan-Andrews pairing. If Trap was worried about who would replace them, he may yet call up Paul Green, a player he trusts, as much for the things he won't do as the things he does.

Leaving McCarthy out would be a mistake and a sign of Trapattoni's limited ambitions. He has a sparkling future that can't be denied, even by a conservative coach.

McClean looks like making the squad. Doing anything else would be to deny Ireland the possibility of making the most of the present.

Sunday Indo Sport

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