Trapattoni backs down over training schedule
Player power has forced Giovanni Trapattoni to cancel today's planned training session in Poland.
The Irish manager late last night took the unusual step of giving the players an unscheduled day off -- only hours after he faced questions over whether his intensive Euro 2012 preparations were doing more harm than good.
He had earlier reacted incredulously to the suggestion from winger Aiden McGeady that Monday's poor performance in Hungary was caused by fatigue arising from a hectic training schedule.
McGeady said in the aftermath of the game that a number of players were struggling in the first half of the scoreless draw, and attributed it to a fortnight of high-intensity preparation. Midfielder Keith Andrews added that training had been difficult, and indicated his belief that this week would be more a case of "ticking over".
It would be inaccurate to suggest that reports of the players' observations drew a furious public reaction from Trapattoni. He was animated and tetchy in the confusion following the Hungary match, yet he was considerably calmer yesterday.
But after speaking to media and returning to the team hotel with the group, Trapattoni performed a U-turn and cancelled today's planned training session in the Municipal Stadium in Gdynia.
He had denied any suggestion that rest would be the solution to the reports of unrest in the camp. However, with Sunday's showdown with Croatia looming over the horizon, the Italian has taken the surprise step to relax the preparations in order to aid tired limbs.
WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?
Speaking to a reporter from Sky after Monday's draw in Budapest, McGeady indicated that some players were feeling tired at the interval, and discussed it.
"The training has been of such a high intensity that a lot of players felt a bit jaded," he said. "A lot of players were saying that at half-time. I think maybe we need to take it easy on training."
Ireland's first-choice XI struggled in the first half, and Trapattoni confirmed that they looked slightly leggy. Yet he attributed their sluggishness to the difficult underfoot conditions, and the delay standing around in the tunnel when there were fears that thunderstorms could possibly even force postponement.
WHAT WAS TRAP'S REACTION TO McGEADY'S COMMENTS?
The 73-year-old seemed slightly bemused at first, stressing that the Spartak Moscow man was young and possibly didn't think about what he was saying. But he was quick to dismiss any suggestion that he was running his players into the ground.
"I must ask him, McGeady, because the training was very light," he said. "You were in Montecatini (he said while addressing a crowd of newspaper reporters). You saw every training. It was a holiday.
"I wish to ask McGeady: 'What did you say?' because in my career, I never make the job too hard for the players. I never push the players too hard."
For some reason, the Irish boss decided to change his mind in the hours that followed those comments.
WHAT HAS THE TRAINING SCHEDULE CONSISTED OF?
Ten Ireland players gathered in Portmarnock on May 17. That group included the Championship contingent, Premier League players struggling with injury, and then newcomer James McClean. On May 20, the established squad members joined the party.
During the week in Portmarnock leading up to the game with Bosnia, their daily routine generally included two training sessions -- the first was fitness orientated, the second with the ball. In Italy last week, they were given Wednesday off while the other days were split between time in the gym and training sessions. "Training, training, training," said McGeady last week.
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE WITH OTHER NATIONS?
The controversial Dutch coach Raymond Verheijen -- who served as assistant to the late Gary Speed at Wales and is perhaps best known for upsetting Speed's friends by touting for the job afterwards on Twitter -- has taken to the social media forum to offer strong opinions on the varying methods of preparation around Europe.
He claims that the Italian manner of readying teams for the competition is flawed, initially pointing to the spate of injuries suffered by Cesare Prandelli's side before turning his attentions to Trapattoni's comments.
Verheijen has monitored the Russian build-up and claims they are building steadily towards peak performance in Friday's opener with the Czech Republic rather than getting too intensive in the build-up.
The English approach under new boss Roy Hodgson varies dramatically from the Irish way. After cancelling a trip to Marbella to allow his marquee names rest up after their club season ended, Hodgson also gave the group two days off with their families following their win over Belgium on Saturday. They land in Krakow today without having seen very much of each other in the build-up.
WHY DID TRAPATTONI TAKE THIS APPROACH?
His immediate concern was undergoing fitness work with the players who were out of favour with their clubs, or finished their Championship campaign at the end of April. Trapattoni was keen to build the condition of those players, and was reluctant to give them an even longer break.
Then, with several key names carrying problems, he wanted to monitor their progress, although the fact that Shay Given and Richard Dunne picked up minor knocks in the first week complicated matters. Sean St Ledger also picked up a groin strain that he put down to the strain of concerted training as a contrast from a couple of weeks on the sidelines.
A key point here, however, is that Trapattoni has always spoken about his frustration at being able to spend such a short amount of time with the squad around international matches -- sometimes just a handful of training sessions before midweek games. This was a chance to get them together for a long period of time, and he wasn't going to let it pass.
REASONS TO BE CONCERNED?
They were curious comments from McGeady, who is a key man and never afraid to speak his mind. Trapattoni said that the winger was perhaps "psychologically tired" after his starring display against Bosnia in Dublin, hinting that the Glaswegian may not exactly have been in the right frame of mind. But then, seconds later, he praised the player's performance in Hungary, suggesting that he needs games to remain focused.
The culmination of the day's events, however, is that while Trapattoni seemed unimpressed by the 26-year-old's opinions, he has essentially taken them on board and agreed that the players would benefit from recharging the batteries. It's an unusual departure for a man who usually does things on his own terms.