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He's brought us this far and he's not going to change now

While Paul Green was recovering from injury, the texts of encouragement kept coming from Giovanni Trapattoni. 'We are waiting for you,' one said. Another told him not to rush back too quickly. Green was left in no doubt that he was in the Irish manager's thoughts.



Green damaged his cruciate and medial ligaments playing for Derby County last April. The day after Ireland qualified for the European Championships, he was invited to Dublin to join in the celebrations. Instead, he stayed at home to continue his rehab. Derby had a reserve game the day after the play-off and Green wanted to play in that.

Green has been playing for Derby ever since. When he wasn't named in the original Irish squad for the friendly against the Czech Republic last week, you could have been forgiven for thinking that his stint as an Irish player was just a strange interlude, not a Joey Lapira moment, but not a great career either.

Yet the minute Trapattoni heard of Darron Gibson's injury, he summoned Green. Ireland was waiting. Trapattoni called up James McClean at the same time. That now looks like an after-thought.

Green played well on Wednesday night and he probably has a better chance of making the squad than James McCarthy. Seamus Coleman, another outstanding prospect, is likely to be disappointed. Ireland could head to the European Championships with Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Paul Green and Darron Gibson as the four central midfielders. Whelan and Andrews are under-appreciated but it remains an uninspiring collection. If McClean doesn't make it either, then Ireland will be looking blankly towards the bench for inspiration. Inspiration is not something Trapattoni is looking for.

Green may have jumped ahead of the three players who could bring some life to the Irish squad. If they are to get their chance, they will do so on the blind. The time for experimentation has gone. If you blinked, you missed it. The squad for the next friendly in May will be the squad Trapattoni wants to take to the Euros. Only injury will alter it after that.

On Friday, the FAI contacted journalists to insist, on Trapattoni's behalf, that he was still "monitoring players" and the squad was not "set in stone".

It is beginning to harden.

Trapattoni spoke on Thursday about how he looks at McClean and thinks of the ways he can improve him. If James McCarthy had played on Wednesday, you could believe him. "I like working with young players, they are instinctive." Trapattoni believes he can improve players when he works with them closely. For that reason, as well as many others, it would be a shame if McCarthy or McClean weren't given the opportunity to spend a month with the manager in the summer.

McCarthy looked like he had served his time and Trapattoni had suggested on several occasions that he would give him a chance, possibly a half, last Wednesday. Instead, McCarthy must wait and hope that Trap's wooing of Paul Green doesn't force him out.

Green catches Trapattoni's eye for many reasons. Unlike many of the Irish players who are hailed by the media, Green doesn't think he is better than he is or, at least, better than Trapattoni thinks he is.

Trapattoni considers English football a "desert", a tactical wasteland, a game played without composure or reflection. "They play well with us. Marco sees many games. English football is like a desert. It's different. Sometimes when I see someone like St Ledger I wonder how it is possible he can play with us? We have our system and balance and our players play well."

On Thursday morning, he was asked his view of the Premier League, billed by Sky as the best in the world. "It's very entertaining, full of foreign players, it's like a melting pot. Their way of interpreting football at club level is quite entertaining for those who go to the stadium but you saw that even Napoli beat them. It is fantastic but afterwards there is also the result."

He told how he often watches English games and is transfixed when a goalkeeper takes a goal-kick and the outfield players shuffle to one flank, knowing the 'keeper will kick it there. "Twenty players go to the line," he said, jumping to his feet, "it is like the Red Sea parting. I ask 'Why?' Marco say the same 'Why? The goal is over there, through the middle. It is their habit but you must show them why you do this and why you don't do this."

This is not an amusing observations from an outsider, it informs everything he has done with the Irish players. He does not believe the players in that league can absorb too much information so he has adapted his philosophy of a lifetime and made it more severe, more basic and that is all he wants.

Wednesday night was a perfect demonstration of the wasteland Trapattoni has created of his own in opposition to English football's. John O'Shea said afterwards it should be "an eye-opener" for Trapattoni. "We shouldn't need a goal against us to kick-start us into action. The squad as a whole, the training has been the best I can remember for a good few years. Maybe we left a bit of that on the training pitch because of how we started the game. It seemed a little flat, sad to say. It was a great reaction but we shouldn't need a goal against us to kick us into life, especially at home."

The perceptive players among the squad know that last Wednesday was a wasted opportunity. Trapattoni's nature means they will all be on the plane barring injury. But the players who could bring a different energy like McClean or McCarthy will only be summoned in an emergency. They are unlikely to receive too many text messages either.

Trapattoni has spent a lifetime doing what he thinks is best and ignoring the noise. Last week, Brian Kerr made some valid and lively points but also wondered if Trapattoni understood the "Irish mentality" in regard to taking the players away for a tournament.

When Kerr's name was mentioned on Thursday, Trapattoni stayed calm but Marco Tardelli asked "Who is this?" Brian Kerr, he was told, former manager. "Yes. Who is this?" he repeated. "I believe in freedom of speech," Trapattoni said, "but after 35 years doing this job, I know what is required and after four years here, I think I know the Irish mentality."

In England, they talk the same nonsense about the English mentality and how it must be indulged and entertained, perhaps with a drink at the right time. Kerr now seems to think that Ireland's version should also be understood.

Trapattoni saw the mentality of football in these islands as a handicap but, paradoxically, he has sent out a side which squanders possession with the abandon of brutish long-ball teams.

He dismissed too the criticism of John Giles about his decision to send McClean on for 12 minutes. "It is a difference of opinion. I gave him the confidence of being with us for a week, that was important. He will have time. He played for 12 minutes with only one objective -- to reward him for coming with us. I have lots of experience with young players, I could ask these men what they have done, but I'm not interested in other managers. I have my job."

McClean is a talent that shouldn't be ignored.

Aiden McGeady sent out a message which will resonate in the summer when Ireland play the best side in the world at keeping the ball.

"Sometimes it can be difficult," he said, reflecting on Trapattoni's style of play. "The Czechs had a lot of the ball. Myself and Duffer and the two centre midfielders were working like dogs trying to get the ball back. The Czechs just passing us all over the place. When we got the ball back everybody was out of breath so trying to get up the park is difficult."

Nothing will change until the players walk out in Poznan and perhaps decide that they have to play. Trapattoni will keep promising to change.

"I watch what is possible to improve my players. I keep improving myself because I see the changes, I listen to any criticisms. I don't think I have won and I stop. When I win, I want to win again. I am not arrogant."

Trapattoni is not arrogant, but try telling him what to do.

Sunday Indo Sport