Friday 20 April 2018

Trapattoni plays hard ball with his squad

He has branded John O’Shea naive, called Shay Given an idiot and now he has axed Kevin Foley from his Euro 2012 squad . . .

THERE were parts of Montecatini feeling the tremors from an earthquake yesterday, but Giovanni Trapattoni didn't notice. He was preparing to deliver his own shock.

The Ireland manager was monitoring the fitness of John O'Shea and Paul McShane when some squad members, who were upstairs in their rooms, noticed some strange movement emanating from the serious quake 200km away.

What came next was a devastating blow for Kevin Foley who, like Gary Waddock before Italia '90, was called aside by the manager and told that he wouldn't be in the squad that was submitted to UEFA

Thirty minutes before sending off his list to European football's official governing body, Foley was summoned into Trapattoni's room where he was delivered news he wasn't expecting.

"I understood how difficult it is, but I have a duty to the team and the country," said Trapattoni. "It was not easy saying this to Kevin."

The reality, however, is that Trapattoni is a cool customer when it comes to making the hard decisions.

That's always been his way. On Sunday morning, he didn't go overboard on the sympathy when discussing Keith Fahey's plight. He was injured, he had to go.

This is business. A fortnight ago, Foley was of more use to him than McShane. Now he isn't.

Subsequent developments have reversed the roles, so the 73-year-old changed his mind and made the harsh call. Thanks very much and goodbye. PS: You can stick around if you want.

The player's initial reaction was to leave immediately. After thinking about it, however, he went back to Trapattoni and said that he wanted to line out in last night's friendly with a local selection.

"I wanted to prove a point," said a choked up Foley last night. "To show I was fit to play."

The manager agreed to the request, and admitted he was also thinking selfishly when asking his spurned player if he would stick around in case someone else picked up a knock. But everyone understands why Foley will return home today to see his family. "I want to go home, it's a lot to take in," he said. "I feel betrayed."

Trapattoni might have been working the crowd at the civic reception in Montecatini on Monday evening, but around the camp, his game face is on. O'Shea was branded naive for lining out unnecessarily for his club.

The boss told Shay Given he would be an idiot to play in last weekend's friendly with Bosnia, while adding that he would be an idiot to pick him. Still, they are strong words towards his players, evidence that the intensity levels are rising as the competition draws closer.

His former assistant, Liam Brady, knows that Trapattoni can put emotion to one side when it comes to the day job. Back in 1982, Brady was shown the door by Trap to make room for Michel Platini at Juventus as Serie A rules limited sides to just two foreigners. The Dubliner was rated behind Platini and Zbigniew Boniek, thus, despite impressing for the Turin giants, he was dispatched to Sampdoria.

So, what happened this time? Foley is a victim of an unfortunate set of circumstances, with the cruellest irony being that he has effectively lost out due to the speed in which he has recovered from a hamstring problem.

Trapattoni can make a change between now and the opening game with Croatia on June 10, but only if it can be proved to a UEFA doctor that the departing player is genuinely injured. Foley, who joined up with the squad 13 days ago, was fully involved in training on Monday and able to play in last night's training game.

In other words, he is fine. If Trapattoni thought he was still crocked, then he could have left him in the squad and made the tough decision to officially draft in McShane at some stage next week.

Why prefer McShane now? Well, the difficulties suffered by centre-halves Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger and Darren O'Dea are undoubtedly a factor. They may only be minor niggles, but they are enough to provide Trapattoni with genuine worry about a shortage of central defenders during the competition, especially when you factor possible suspensions into it.

First choice right-back O'Shea can, of course, slot into that department as well, yet he is another member of the walking wounded.

Trapattoni may prefer McShane as a right-back -- that's where he deployed him in the Bosnian game -- but the Wicklow lad can also move inside in an emergency. And, for this position in the squad, all Trap is really thinking about is emergencies; Stephen Kelly is still O'Shea's deputy.

Foley was initially favoured because of his versatility. The Wolves man can also be effective in a midfield role, either on the right side or in a holding position. Indeed, he partnered Keith Andrews in the engine room for last year's 2-0 friendly win over Italy, and therefore offered another defensively- minded central-midfield option.

Alas, Fahey's setback led to the arrival of Paul Green, who ticks that box and is effectively Glenn Whelan's understudy. With James McClean proving his credentials as the fourth winger, suddenly Foley's versatility wasn't much use to Trapattoni any more, as he covered positions where the manager is well stocked.

loyalty

It's a terrible setback for one of the good guys. An old cliche, but very relevant in this case. Foley's loyalty to the cause could never be questioned. Since he came into the Ireland squad under Steve Staunton, he has travelled around the world wearing a tracksuit.

It almost became a running joke; the London lad is an affable character, and was drafted in to interview mixed zones more often than football matches. Three years separated his first call-up and his first cap.

Still, he continued to report when the call came, waiting for the opportunity to actually figure in a competitive game of substance.

Last March, he finally got that chance, as the starting right-full in the qualifying win over Macedonia. In keeping with his style, he produced a tidy, efficient performance, doing the simple things right.

But his biggest problem in Trapattoni's eyes was something that he couldn't do anything about. The Italian has always favoured taller, bulkier options, repeatedly citing the fact that Foley was shoved off the ball for a Nigerian goal on his Irish debut, at Craven Cottage in May 2009.

"We admire his technical value," said Trap last night, "but we have injuries with the defenders -- and if we get a suspension too, then we need a stopper."

McShane has a more agricultural style, but, right now, it ticks the boxes for Trapattoni, and that's the bottom line.

Everyone else can go and sleep with the fishes.

Irish Independent

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