Sport Soccer

Saturday 20 January 2018

FAI must finish this with dignity or face dire consequences

Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

GIOVANNI Trapattoni has a year left on his contract because he brought Ireland to Poland, but he is a busted docket because of what happened there.

Ultimately, the debate about any manager's future should revolve around whether his employers believe that he is the man best placed to get the best from the players available.

The manner in which a team loses says a lot about the strength of the dressing-room, and Ireland's meek collapse against Germany should have set the alarm bells ringing in Abbotstown. When Russia bossed Trapattoni's men in Dublin back in October 2010, the outclassed hosts at least mounted a late fightback. Belief has been chipped away.

Kenny Cunningham and Kevin Kilbane appeared together on Newstalk in the aftermath of the game. The clip is available online, and it's essential listening for those who harbour doubts about suggestions that the manager's relationship with his younger players is a serious problem.

Supporters of Trapattoni have attempted to pass off media discussion of player disillusionment as part of some mysterious agenda, presumably the kind that is cooked up in a smoke-filled room. They point to the positive comments from current squad members, when the truth is that the post-Kazakhstan frustration expressed by James McClean delivered a far more relevant insight into how a footballer thinks than any formal interview with a member of the PR department hovering over the shoulder.

Kilbane spent three years under Trapattoni and soldiered with many of the Euro 2012 squad members for longer than that. Cunningham, similar to most football people, chooses his words carefully when it comes to delivering criticism. Like Kilbane, he has enough friends in the game to know what's going on. They have no motivation to engage in idle gossip.

"I think his words carried weight when he first spoke to that squad," said Cunningham. "I'm not too sure that's the case anymore. It changed in the summer. I don't think he has the confidence and the faith of the players going forward."

Kilbane sang from the same hymn sheet, adding the damning assessment that the loss of senior players has removed the people who did most of the talking at half-time, in tandem with goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly. Without them, we are left with Trapattoni, Tardelli, and a dressing-room packed with players that he browned off in the summer, either by ignoring them in Poland, or not bringing them there in the first place.

It can all be traced back to Poznan, and the final Euro 2012 game with Italy. After defeat to Spain confirmed Ireland's exit with a game to spare, the second-string options at the beginning of the competition believed they would now be given a chance to shine. Darron Gibson nearly walked out of the camp when Paul Green was brought on ahead of him against the Spanish, but he was persuaded not to by members of the back-room staff.

When Trapattoni stuck with his original XI for the Italian game, he delivered a punch in the stomach to the players that he really needs now. As Cunningham observed, he was effectively saying that he didn't think they were good enough.

Gibson decided to call it quits, while Shane Long and McClean have both struggled to hide their feelings. Even solid company men like Stephen Kelly bristled. While the manager explained his decision by saying that he would have been accused of favouring his native country, his priorities were in the wrong order.

Compliment

Trapattoni has pointed out that people from other nations consistently compliment him on what a good job he is doing with little old Ireland. This is considered more relevant than the objections of those with an awareness of the state of play inside the parish.

The 73-year-old is clinging to the win in Kazakhstan as evidence that the spirit in the camp remains strong. He is one of two people who believe that Ireland performed well in Astana. The other is Tardelli. No player can bring themselves to repeat this audacious revisionism.

Kevin Doyle's tenacity was the reason that the visitors somehow escaped with three points. Trapattoni owes that victory to Doyle, and the FAI should thank the Wexford man too as it means that, in spite of the system, Ireland enter 2013 where they expected to be in terms of the play-off race provided they take three points from Torshavn.

Spring's double header with Sweden and Austria is of crucial importance, and the winter window provides enough time for the FAI to find out if Trapattoni can leave with dignity and bring in his successor.

The association have been given enough warnings at this stage. If they retain the status quo and it all goes wrong in March, they are responsible for the consequences.

Irish Independent

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